Research Handbook on Jurisdiction and Immunities in International Law

Research Handbook on Jurisdiction and Immunities in International Law

Research Handbooks in International Law series

Edited by Alexander Orakhelashvili

This Research Handbook provides a comprehensive and up-to-date analysis of the international law of jurisdiction and immunities, illustrating those aspects in which the law of jurisdiction and law of immunities are mutually interdependent, as well as shedding light on the implications of that interdependence. With authoritative contributions from recognized experts, it offers an impartial perspective on the applicable international law, independent from any positions held in governmental or other institutional circles.

Chapter 2: The concept of jurisdiction in international law

Cedric Ryngaert

Subjects: law - academic, public international law


In this chapter, the concept of jurisdiction as exercised by states (or regional organizations such as the European Union) is analysed. Such jurisdiction is concerned with the reach of a state’s law: what link, if any, is required for a state to apply its laws to situations and persons? Jurisdiction is an aspect of a state’s sovereignty, as the right to prescribe and enforce laws is an essential component of statehood. In the classic Westphalian understanding, this right has been limited to a state’s territory, a limitation that at the same time ensures that no state intervenes in another state’s affairs (2.1). This idea is no longer strictly applied, if it ever was. Exceptions that allow for limited extra-territorial jurisdiction have been carved out, and, moreover, the territoriality principle has been construed rather liberally (2.2). To be true, some states employ a rather strict presumption that the legislature does not normally intend to apply its laws extra-territorially, but such a presumption does not limit the discretion of the legislature to do just that if it so desires (2.3). The overlapping assertions that result from multiple states’ invocation of permissive principles of jurisdiction may almost unavoidably result in international friction. This friction may be mitigated by a ‘rule of reason’, which instructs courts and regulators to balance the interests and connections of the case with the different states involved (2.4).

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