The use of law and of legal instruments as a means to try and offer reparation for historical wrongs and to pursue ‘historical justice’ is not an unknown phenomenon. This paper would like to focus on a specific case study, relating to the use of a typical institute of private law (unjust enrichment) in so-called ‘human rights litigation’, where the common feature is that civil claims based on either alleged tort, breach of contract and/or unjust enrichment also constitute a violation of human rights to the detriment of the plaintiffs, thus offering an interesting intersection of different branches of law. A closer examination of the references to ‘unjust enrichment’ in the human rights litigation however seems to suggest that what is being recalled is not the technical (and disciplined by national laws) institute of unjust enrichment, but rather a trans-national and general action, which is closer to tort than it is to contract (given the tie with instances of international law and war crimes). This paper seeks to identify where and how the reference to “unjust enrichment” becomes relevant and what its significance is within the framework of this specific litigation.
Vardi, Noah, Unjust Enrichment in Recent So-Called ‘Human Rights Litigation’ (2011), Osservatorio del Diritto Civile e Commerciale, 1-2012, 159.