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

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Exploring the boundaries of international law

Part 1: Objective territoriality

  • A state has jurisdiction over offences completed within its territory.

Example of objective territoriality

In the Lotus case a collision occurred between a French steamship, the SS Lotus, and the Turkish steamship, the SS Boz-Kourt on the high seas, which resulted in the deaths of people on the Turkish ship. When the French ship went into a Turkish port the French officer of the watch was arrested. The PCIJ held that Turkey was entitled to assert jurisdiction as the collision involved deaths which occurred on a vessel flying the Turkish flag to which, under customary international law, Turkish domestic jurisdiction applied. Ships and aircraft are treated for jurisdictional purposes as if they are floating territory of the state of registration and so the act of the Lotus in colliding with the Turkish ship was therefore regarded as an act completed within Turkish territorial jurisdiction.

The objective approach has on occasions been extended to encompass the state in which the effect of the crime occurs, even though the crime may have been planned and committed in another jurisdiction. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘effects doctrine’. Its application can be controversial and will be considered in more detail in Section 4.4 of this course.

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