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Derecho Internacional Público



Comprises independence of action and equality with other States. Independence of action implies that the Government of a State exclusively conducts its own foreign relations, though this does not mean that a State cannot have its foreign relations conducted by another State. The equality component of sovereignty is juridical equality among States. While there may be enormous disparities in wealth, military power and political clout, in law, all States are equal.



Is an essential prerequisite to statehood; and ownership of, and jurisdiction over, territory are necessary concomitants of sovereignty. It is “the space within which the State exercises its supreme authority”. However tempting it might be to think that, as there is no vacant territory in the world awaiting claims by States, the traditional rules on acquiring title to territory are now irrelevant, there remain disputes as to boundaries, the resolution of which depends upon the rules by which title may be acquired.
OccupationRequires that the territory in question must be terra nullius and that the occupying State must exercise over the territory open, peaceful, continuous and effective governmental authority for a substantial period of time. The terra nullius requirement mandates that there be no former or existing sovereign for the territory; it must belong to no-one.


CessionCession may be the result of a sale of territory, the largest purchaser of territory being the United States. By the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, the US acquired 828,800 square miles of territory from France for a total of $15 million; by the Alaskan Purchase of 1867, the US acquired 586,412 square miles from the Russia for $7.2 million.


Acquisitive PrescriptionPrescription may also cure defects in a title. In essence, the requirements for prescriptive title are identical to those for title by occupation the effective exercise of governmental authority. While scholars have long seen a clear distinction between occupation and prescription, international courts and tribunals have shied away from articulating prescription as a basis for title to territory.
Conquest and subjugation was a recognised method of acquiring territory. What was necessary was more than simple conquest; the conquering State had to assume the mantle of government of the territory. It might do this through a peace treaty with the vanquished State formally ceding the territory; or it might do this by wielding actual control over the territory à titre de souverain.
Accretion and avulsion Changes in territory as a result of the forces of nature are recognised by international law. So, when alluvial deposits at the mouths of river form usable land, that gradual accretion of territory is accorded to the coastal State.



In normal parlance, jurisdiction means legal authority. As an aspect of territorial sovereignty, jurisdiction includes the legislative power (to prescribe or proscribe conduct by legislation) and the enforcement power (to compel obedience to the laws of conduct through courts). A State has complete and exclusive legislative authority, except when, in the exercise of its territorial sovereignty, it has surrendered that authority to another State or to an international organisation.
Universality Much nonsense has been written about universal jurisdiction, jurisdiction in a State over crimes committed anywhere by anyone.
Passive personalityThe passive personality principle locates jurisdiction in the State whose nationals are injured by the act of a nonnational committed abroad.
SecurityJurisdiction based on the security (or protective) principle entails prosecution of a non-national for an offence committed abroad.
NationalityThe nationality principle of jurisdiction locates jurisdiction in a State for an offence committed by its nationals anywhere.
TerritorialityTerritoriality locates jurisdiction in the State in whose territory an offence is committed.


Diplomatic and consular immunities and privilegesCertain accepted protections for ambassadors and other representatives of States have been part of international law from its earliest days.
State ImmunityThe traditional rule was to the effect that, all States being equal, no State could subject another State to its jurisdiction. This applied particularly to a Head of State.
The territoriality of jurisdiction admits of some exceptions, principally in relation to foreign States and their representatives. At one time, a foreign State, its ruler, its official representatives and its property were not regarded as amenable to the jurisdiction of any State’s courts.

Immunities from jurisdiction

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