Jurisdiction in International Law

Jurisdiction is the practical authority granted to a formally constituted legal body or to a political le adder to deal with and make pronouncements on legal matters and, by implication, to administer justice within a defined area of responsibility. International law is the set of rules generally regarded and accepted as binding in relations between states and nations. It serves as a framework for the practice of stable and organized international relations.

Jurisdiction becomes a concern of international law when a State, in its eagerness to promote its sovereign interests abroad, adopts laws that govern matters of not purely domestic concern. The international law of jurisdiction is sometimes referred to as the law of ‘extra- territorial’ jurisdiction, especially in the field of economic law. The use of the term ‘extraterritoriality’ derives from the observation that jurisdiction becomes a concern of international law where a State regulates matters which are not exclusively of domestic concern. The term ‘extraterritorial jurisdiction’ is only accurate if it refers to assertions of jurisdiction over persons, property, or activities, which have no territorial nexus whatsoever with the regulating State.

Extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) is the legal ability of a government to exercise authority beyond its normal boundaries and it may also refers to a court’s ability to exercise power beyond its territorial limits. For example, long arm jurisdiction. Long-Arm Statute is a legal provision that allows a state to exercise jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant, provided that the prospective defendant has sufficient minimum contacts with the forum state.

There are five general doctrines authorizing the exercise of jurisdiction under international law. States can exercise prescriptive jurisdiction under international law if they satisfy the requirements of one of five accepted doctrine. * The Nationality principle grants states jurisdiction over their own nationals.

* The Territoriality principle gives states jurisdiction over actions committed inside of their boundaries. It also allows states to reach conduct occurring outside of their borders if that conduct has substantial effects within their territory.

* The Protective principle grants states jurisdiction over offenses directed against the security of the state or threatening the integrity of government functions .

* The Passive personality principle, which not all states have recognized, authorizes states to exercise extraterritorial jurisdiction over acts against their nationals.

* The Universality principle gives states the power to punish “certain offenses recognized by the community of nations as of universal concern, such as piracy, genocide, war crimes, and perhaps certain acts of terrorism, even where none of the bases for jurisdiction.

Prescriptive jurisdiction refers to the power of a state to regulate people, property, and transactions or to prescribe conduct, usually through the passage of laws or regulations. Enforcement jurisdiction refers to the power of a state to investigate, arrest, prosecute, punish, or otherwise enforce the law against persons present within its territory or aboard vessels or aircraft bearing its nationality. Adjudicative jurisdiction refers to a State’s jurisdiction ‘to adjudicate, i.e. to subject persons or things to the process of its courts or administrative tribunals, whether in civil or in criminal proceedings, whether or not the state is a party to the proceedings.


Conflict of laws is a set of rules aiming to provide national Courts with the instruments to decide a case containing foreign elements. It is concerned with civil and commercial law rather than criminal or administrative matters. These laws can be divided into three areas:

 1. The jurisdiction of a Court, its competence to hear and decide a case
 2. The law governing a relationship, the rules applicable for deciding a case 3. The recognition and enforcement of judgments rendered by foreign courts

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