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Extraterritoriality is the state of being exempt from the jurisdiction of local law, usually as the result of diplomatic negotiations. Extraterritoriality can also be applied to physical places, such as military bases of foreign countries, or offices of the United Nations. The three most common cases recognized today internationally relate to the persons and belongings of foreign heads of state, the persons and belongings of ambassadors and certain other diplomatic agents, and public ships in foreign waters.

Extraterritoriality is often extended to friendly or allied militaries, particularly for the purposes of allowing that military to simply pass through one's territory.

It is distinguished from personal jurisdiction in the sense that extraterritoriality operates to the prejudice of local jurisdiction.


Historical cases

During the thirteen and fourteenth centuries, the Italian sea republics of Genoa and Venice managed to wrestle extraterritoriality for their quarters (Pera and Galata) in the Byzantine capital, Constantinople. They even battled among themselves for further control of the weakened empire.

Perhaps the most well-known cases of historical extraterritoriality concerned European nationals in 19th century China and Japan under the so-called unequal treaties. Extraterritoriality was imposed upon China in the Treaty of Nanjing, resulting from the First Opium War. Shanghai in particular became a major center of foreign activity, as it contained two extraterritorial zones, the International Settlement and the French Concession. Extraterritorial claims were not limited to Western nations; Japan later claimed extraterritorial privileges elsewhere in Asia. These extraterritorialities officially ended only after the end of World War II. The last example of extraterritorial jurisdiction maintained by the United States was in Morocco, which ended in 1957.

Japan recognized extraterritoriality in the treaties concluded with the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Netherlands, and Russia in 1858, in connection with the concept of "Most Favored Nation".[1] However, Japan succeeded in reforming its unequal status with Western countries through the Anglo-Japanese Treaty of Commerce and Navigation signed on July 16, 1894 in London.

Extraterritoriality in China for non-diplomatic personnel ended at various times in the twentieth century. Germany and Austria-Hungary lost their rights in China in 1917 after China joined the allies in World War I; the Soviet Union gave up its rights in China in 1924; the United States and United Kingdom gave up their rights in 1943; Italy and Japan gave up their rights by virtue of being at war with China in World War II; and France was the last country to give up its rights, in 1946.

Siam signed a treaty granting extraterritorial rights to Britain in 1855 during the reign of King Rama IV.[2] Unequal treaties were later signed with 13 other European powers, as well as Japan. After the absolute monarchy was overthrown in 1932, the constitutional government promulgated a set of legal codes, setting the stage for new treaties signed between 1937 and 1938 which canceled extraterritorial rights.[3]

The Treaty Ports in Ireland, which were sovereign bases created by the United Kingdom in 1922, did not enjoy extraterritoriality from the Irish Free State. They were instead pieces of sovereign territory retained by the United Kingdom, until they were finally ceded to the Free State in 1938.

A historic case of extraterritoriality was the seizure of the railways of Nicaragua by Brown Brothers Harriman, a U.S. banking firm. Under the Knox-Castrillo Treaty of 1911 these railroads became legally part of the State of Maine, according to former president of Guatemala, Juan José Arévalo, in his book The Shark and the Sardines (Lyle Stuart, New York, 1961), pp. 210–220, though the Knox-Castrillo Treaty contains no mention of Maine or railroads.

In American Indian contact with EuroAmericans, extraterritoriality once denoted the same idea that beyond given points/lines -- e. g., the Indian Southern Boundary in colonial times -- Indian tribes were beyond white jurisdiction and non-Indians were not to trespass or occupy any lands. With the establishment of reservations, extraterritoriality soon lost this meaning or became a moot designation.[4]

Examples of current extraterritoriality

In popular culture

In the futuristic setting of the Shadowrun role-playing game, major corporations have been granted extraterritoriality.

See also


  1. ^ Duus, Peter (1998). Modern Japan, Second Ed. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.
  2. ^ Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "Extraterritoriality"
  3. ^ Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "Complete Independence"
  4. ^ DeVorsey, Louis,1966,The Indian Boundaries in the Southern Colonies, 1763-1775 (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press); Sutton, Imre, 1976, "Sovereign States and the Changing Definition of the Indian Reservation," Geographical Review,66(3):281-95.

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

EXTERRITORIALITY, a term of international law, used to denominate certain immunities from the application of the rule that every person is subject for all acts done within the boundaries of a state to its local laws. It is also employed to describe the quasi-extraterritorial position, to borrow the phrase of Grotius, of the dwelling-place of an accredited diplomatic agent, and of the public ships of one state while in the waters of another. Latterly its sense has been extended to all cases in which states refrain from enforcing their laws within their territorial jurisdiction. The cases recognized by the law of nations relate to: (I) the persons and belongings of foreign sovereigns, whether incognito or not; (2) the persons and belongings of ambassadors, ministers plenipotentiary, and other accredited diplomatic agents and their suites (but not consuls, except in some nonChristian countries, in which they sometimes have a diplomatic character); (3) public ships in foreign waters. Exterritoriality has also been granted by treaty to the subjects and citizens of contracting Christian states resident within the territory of certain non-Christian states. Lastly, it is held that when armies or regiments are allowed by a foreign state to cross its territory, they necessarily have exterritorial rights. "The ground upon which the immunity of sovereign rulers from process in our courts," said Mr Justice Wills in the case of Mighell v. Sultan of Johore, 1894, "is recognized by our law, is that it would be absolutely inconsistent with the status of an independent sovereign that he should be subject to the process of a foreign tribunal," unless he deliberately submits to its jurisdiction. It has, however, been held where the foreign sovereign was also a British subject (Duke of Brunswick v. King of Hanover, 1844), that he is amenable to the jurisdiction of the English Courts in respect of transactions done by him in his capacity as a subject. A "foreign sovereign" may be taken to include the president of a republic, and even a potentate whose inde pendence is not complete. Thus in the case, cited above, of Mighell v. Sultan of Johore, the sultan was ascertained to have abandoned all right to contract with foreign states, and to have placed his territory under British protection. The court held that he was, nevertheless, a foreign sovereign in so far as immunity from British jurisdiction was concerned. The immunity of a foreign diplomatic agent, as the direct representative of a foreign sovereign (or state), is based on the same grounds as that of the sovereign authority itself. The international practice in the case of Great Britain was confirmed by an act of parliament of the reign of Queen Anne, which is still in force. The preamble to this act states that "turbulent and disorderly persons in a most outrageous manner had insulted the person of the then ambassador of his Czarish Majesty, emperor of Great Russia," by arresting and detaining him in custody for several hours, "in contempt to the protection granted by Her Majesty, contrary to the law of nations, and in prejudice of the rights and privileges which ambassadors and other public ministers, authorized and received as such, have at all times been thereby possessed of, and ought to be kept sacred and inviolable." This preamble has been repeatedly held by our courts to be declaratory of the English common law. The act provides that all suits, writs, processes, against any accredited ambassador or public minister or his domestic servant, and all proceedings and judgments had thereupon, are "utterly null and void," and that any person violating these provisions shall be punished for a breach of the public peace. Thus a foreign diplomatic agent cannot, like the sovereign he represents, waive his immunity by submitting to the British jurisdiction. The diplomatic immunity necessarily covers the residence of the diplomatic agent, which some writers describe as assimilated to territory of the state represented by the agent; but there is no consideration which can justify any extension of the immunity beyond the needs of the diplomatic mission resident within it. It is different with public ships in foreign waters. In their case the exterritoriality attaches to the vessel. Beyond its bulwarks captain and crew are subject to the ordinary jurisdiction of the state upon whose territory they happen to be. By a foreign public ship is now understood any ship in the service of a foreign state. It was even held in the case of the "Parlement Belge" (1880), a packet belonging to the Belgian government, that the character of the vessel as a public ship was not affected by its carrying passengers and merchandise for hire. In a more recent case an action brought by the owners of a Greek vessel against a vessel belonging to the state of Rumania was dismissed, though the agents of the Rumanian government had entered an appearance unconditionally and had obtained the release of the vessel on bail, on the ground that the Rumanian government had not authorized acceptance of the British jurisdiction (The "Jassy," 1906, 75 L.J.P. 93).

Writers frequently describe the exterritoriality of both embassies and ships as absolute. There is, however, this difference, that the exterritoriality of the latter not being, like that of embassies, a derived one, there seems to be no ground for limitation of it. It was, nevertheless, laid down by the arbitrators in the "Alabama" case (Cockburn dissenting), that the privilege of exterritoriality accorded to vessels had not been admitted into the law of nations as an absolute right, but solely as a proceeding founded on the principle of courtesy and mutual deference between different nations, and that it could therefore "never be appealed to for the protection of acts done in violation of neutrality." The exterritorial settlements in the Far East, the privileges of Christians under the arrangements made with the Ottoman Porte, and other exceptions from local jurisdictions, are subject to the conditions laid down in the treaties by which they have been created. There are also cases in which British communities have grown up in barbarous countries without the consent of any local authority. All these are regulated by orders in council, issued now in virtue of the Foreign Jurisdiction Act 1890, an act enabling the crown to exercise any jurisdiction it may have "within a foreign country" in as ample a manner as if it had been acquired "by cession or conquest of territory." A very exceptional case of exterritoriality is that granted to the pope under a special Italian enactment. (T. BA.)

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