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Zuza v. Office of High Representative

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 4, 2015

ZORAN ZUZA, Plaintiff,




In this action, Zoran Zuza asserts a range of claims arising from his removal in 2004 from government employment in Bosnia, pursuant to a decision issued by the High Representative, an international official tasked with managing peace agreement implementation efforts in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Because all defendants in this case are immune from suit under the International Organizations Immunities Act, the Court grants the defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.


In 1995, the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina concluded with the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement. See General Information, Office of the High Representative, Defs.' Ex. 2, ECF No. 4-4. The agreement established the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina ("OHR") to "oversee the implementation of the civilian aspects of the Peace Agreement on behalf of the International Community." Id. The Peace Implementation Council ("PIC"), a group of fifty-five countries and international organizations, supplies financial and other support for the peace process, and the PIC's Steering Board, of which the United States is a member, provides the High Representative with "political guidance." The Peace Implementation Council and Its Steering Board, OHR, Defs.' Ex. 2.

In 1997, the PIC endorsed the High Representative's authority to make "binding decisions, as he judges necessary" on various matters, including "measures to ensure implementation of the Peace Agreement throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina and its Entities." PIC Bonn Conclusions, Dec. 10, 1997, art. XI.2, Defs.' Ex. 7, ECF No. 4-11. These measures "may include actions against persons holding public office or officials... who are found by the High Representative to be in violation of legal commitments made under the Peace Agreement or the terms for its implementation." Id. The following year, the PIC specifically affirmed the High Representative's authority to remove officials from government posts:

The Council acknowledges that leaders whom the High Representative... bar[s] from official office may also be barred from running in elections and from any other elective or appointive public office and from office within political parties until further notice. This should end the practice whereby officials removed are re-assigned to political party positions.

PIC Madrid Decl. Annex, Dec. 16, 1998, art. X.4, Defs.' Ex. 8, ECF No. 4-12.

Pursuant to this authority, in 2004, then-High Representative Paddy Ashdown removed Zoran Zuza from his post as Chief of Cabinet of the Speaker of the Assembly of Republika Srpska, a region of Bosnia and Herzegovina. See generally Decision removing Zoran Zuza from his position as Chief of Cabinet of the Speaker of the RS NA and from other public and party positions he currently holds, OHR 279/04 (Jan. 7, 2004) ("Zuza Decision"), Compl. Ex. A, ECF No. 1; see also Compl. ¶¶ 18, 19, ECF No. 1. The High Representative based this decision on findings that Zuza "[a]s a constituent of the current political culture within Republika Srpska, ... [was] derivatively culpable for contributing to the institutional failure to purge... the political landscape of conditions conducive to the provision of material support and sustenance to individuals indicted under Article 19 [of the Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia]" and that Zuza therefore "obstruct[ed] the process of peace implementation." Zuza Decision 4. The removal was "mandat[ed], " according to the decision, by the "principles of proper governance and transparency, protection of the integrity and reputation of the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and active support for the rule of law and for the international obligations of Bosnia and Herzegovina." Id.

In 2014, Zuza, proceeding pro se, filed this action against OHR, Ashdown, and the current High Representative Valentin Inzko in his official capacity (collectively "Defendants"). See generally Compl. In his complaint, Zuza alleges that the High Representative's actions exclusively targeted Orthodox Serbs such as Zuza, imposing on them a stigma that deprived them of their ability to obtain employment. See id. ¶¶ 20, 24-29, 32-36. Zuza also alleges that the High Representative denied him due process, and that the decision to bar him from public office had inadequate legal and factual support. See id. ¶¶ 22, 30-31. In its ten counts, the complaint asserts a violation of the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1350, and multiple tort claims under the law of this forum, the District of Columbia. See Compl. ¶¶ 56-116. By way of relief, Zuza seeks compensatory and punitive damages. See id. at 32.[1]

Defendants moved to dismiss the action. See Defs.' Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 4. The motion is now fully briefed and ripe for decision.[2]


Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and the law presumes that "a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction[.]" Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). In determining whether jurisdiction exists on a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, a court may "consider the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record, or the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts." Coal. for Underground Expansion v. Mineta, 333 F.3d 193, 198 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (citations omitted). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court may consider court filings and exhibits because they constitute "matters of which it may take judicial notice, " Stewart v. Nat'l Educ. Ass'n, 471 F.3d 169, 173 (D.C. Cir. 2006), or documents referenced in and integral to the complaint, see Marshall v. Honeywell Tech. Solutions, Inc., 536 F.Supp.2d 59, 65 (D.D.C. 2008).

Where a defendant international organization or official is immune from suit, the district court must dismiss the complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. See Lempert v. Rice, 956 F.Supp.2d 17, 25 (D.D.C. 2013) (dismissing suit against international organization); Brzak v. United Nations, 551 F.Supp.2d 313, 318 (S.D.N.Y. 2008) (dismissing suit against officers of international organization); cf. Phoenix Consulting Inc. v. Republic of Angola, 216 F.3d ...

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