Exploring the boundaries of international law
Exploring the boundaries of international law

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Exploring the boundaries of international law

4.1 General principles of jurisdiction

The traditional starting place for a consideration of jurisdiction is the judgment in the Lotus case, which you will look at in the next activity.

Activity 5

Read pages 18–19 of Lotus (SS) Case (France v Turkey) PCIJ Rep Series A 1927, no. 10 [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] (the material is replicated in both English and French), then summarise the court’s view on the nature and extent of a state’s jurisdiction.

Comment

In the judgment, the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ) states that the most important restriction imposed by international law upon a state is that it must not exercise its power in any form in the territory of another state unless there is a permissive rule, deriving from custom or treaty, to the contrary. This reflects the positivist approach to sovereignty; that is, that the jurisdiction of a state within its territory is absolute. The state has power over people, property and events within its territorial boundaries.

The PCIJ then explains that there is no prohibition in international law against states extending their jurisdiction to persons, property and events taking place outside their territory, so long as it is not limited by a contrary principle of international law.

At first sight these statements appear mutually exclusive. The apparent contradiction in the Lotus judgment is resolved when you consider that jurisdiction takes different forms and is subject to customary international law principles which determine the extent of a state’s jurisdiction in different circumstances.

W821_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371