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 15: Jurisdictional immunity of international organizations: from abstract functionality to absolute immunity

Alexander Orakhelashvili

Subjects: law - academic, public international law


The reasons and basis for limiting, or not limiting, the national jurisdiction of the state in favour of an international organization could be complex. The problem is analytically similar to state immunity, in that it is about why the jurisdiction of one entity should be replaced to the benefit of another entity, or replaced by that other entity’s jurisdiction, within the system of international law that always requires positive legal reasons to be advanced for justifying such outcomes. But rationales for or against immunities of international organizations are rather different from those that apply to states, because international organizations are structurally different from states, and their purposes and functions are not identical with those of states either. The international organization’s immunity restricts the sovereign territorial jurisdiction of the state just as much as any other immunity does. A clear legal basis for such immunity is thus required, in each and every case, to see why the host state should decline exercising its sovereign jurisdiction. It was noted in the early literature that, unlike the older absolute immunity doctrine applicable to states and derived from their sovereignty, international organizations would not enjoy immunity merely because of their status. Instead, further reasons should be furnished as to how indispensable particular immunities are for the organization’s working.

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