State Jurisdiction

AuthorJohn H. Currie; Craig Forcese; Joanna Harrington; Valerie Oosterveld
Part ii
State Jurisdiction
In this Part we examine the nature and extent of state jurisdiction over territory, persons,
property, conduct, and transactions. Before doing so, we begin with a few denitional
Our title to this Part is “State Jurisdiction.” In the chapters that follow, we will also employ
the expressions “sovereignty” and “sovereign title” when referring to the relationship between
states and certain types of territory. Recall that, in international law, sovereignty is essentially
autonomy from other states in both domestic matters and foreign relations. Used in relation
to territory, it means autonomous control of that territory.
The dierence between “jurisdiction” and “sovereignty” is a matter of degree rather than
of kind. One observer has dened “jurisdiction” this way: “Jurisdiction is an aspect of sover-
eignty: it refers to a state’s competence under international law to regulate the conduct of
natural and juridical persons[, which] . . . includes the activity of all branches of government:
legislative, executive and judicial.” In areas where states enjoy the full sum of these various
jurisdictional competencies to the exclusion of all other states, they are said to be “sover-
eign.” In other words, sovereignty is used by international lawyers as shorthand for the fullest
and most exclusive form of jurisdiction. Yet, sovereignty should not be taken to require truly
absolute and exclusive jurisdiction — which, as we have seen elsewhere in these materials, is
(and probably always has been) a myth. From the earliest point in the modern state system,
states have constrained their sovereignty through international law. As a result, state jurisdic-
tion always falls short of being full and absolute. We explore this issue in some detail in Part
III, where we examine specic limitations imposed by international law on state jurisdiction.
In the rst three chapters of this Part, we focus on the jurisdictional relationship between
states and territory. It is common to think of state jurisdiction as at its zenith, approximat-
ing sovereignty, in relation to territory. However, to say that sovereignty may be exercised by
James Crawford, Brownlie’s Principles of Public International Law, th ed (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, ) at .

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