The Tinoco Arbitration Award 1923

The Tinoco Arbitration Award 1923

Principle: non-recognition of a government does not outweigh the evidence of the de facto status of a government.

The “Tinoco regime” came to power through a coup in Costa Rica in 1917. It lasted for two years. During this time, the Tinoco regime was recognized as legitimate by some States, but not large powers such as Great Britain (plaintiff). During its time in power, the Tinoco regime entered into several contracts (including an oil concession) with the British government. When the regime fell in 1919, Great Britain brought suit against Costa Rica (defendant) to enforce the contracts and collect on the Tinoco regime’s liabilities. Costa Rica argued that the Tinoco regime was not a recognized government capable of entering into contracts on behalf of the State. Additionally, Costa Rica argued that since Great Britain itself did not recognize the Tinoco regime as a government, it could not claim that Tinoco conferred enforceable rights such as the oil concession on British citizens. In March 1923, the case was considered by an Arbitrator, United States Chief Justice William H. Taft.

Issue: Does non-recognition of a new government by other governments destroy the de facto status of the government?

Decision:  government that establishes itself and maintains a peaceful de facto administration need not to conform to previous constitution and non-recognition of the govt. by other govt.’s does not destroy the de facto status of the govt.

Reasoning: The evidence of non-recognition did not outweigh the evidence of the de facto status of the Tinoco regime. Unrecognized governments thus may have the power to form valid contracts.



Rayhanul Islam

Legal activist & Practitioner - Editor - Researcher - Learner; A person who uses Logic & Law as his tool where psychology & Philosophy plays a role, he is on a quest to bring positive change to the legal sector of Bangladesh. He works as a lawyer and promotes legal knowledge and human right concept to the root level. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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