The Chabad-Lubavitch movement, often described as a group practicing Orthodox Judaism Eastern Europe, has been engaged in an ongoing battle to recover certain Jewish texts in the possession of the Russian government. The texts are believed to have been taken by the Nazi’s during the Second World War and eventually found their way into Russian borders. In 2010, Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colombia entered into a default judgment against the Russian government, commanding the return of the texts to the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. The U.S. Department of Justice, however, issued a statement this Wednesday expressing that the District Court Judge lacked the judicial authority to sanction Russia. The case was filed by the Chabad-Lubavitch movement after negotiations for the return of the texts with Russian government were unsuccessful and the group sought monetary civil sanctions against the Russian government.
The Department of Justice cited the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act in support of the assertion that the District Judge lacked authority to issue the sanctions against the Russian government. The Act is alleged to bar the ability of the U.S. Judge to exercise jurisdiction over Russian property, the texts, located within Russia. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Justice expressed U.S. foreign policy concerns related to Russia and the potential for other Nations to attempt to impose sanctions against the United States in the future, under somewhat similar circumstances. The Department of Justice reiterated, however, that the U.S. continues to support the efforts of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement in acquiring the texts through diplomatic discourse, but imposing sanctions would not be an effective means of achieving this purpose.
The question arises then, as to whether or not diplomatic discourse will prove effective with an unpredictable Russian government? Should the U.S. or any Nation be able to impose some jurisdiction in certain cases against another government? Or, is the attempt to extend jurisdiction on property located within another country always a clear case of overreach, and thus, a threat to the sovereignty of the world’s Nations?
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