The Essentials of International Public Law and Organization

By Amos S. Hershey | Go to book overview
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87. States the Main Subjects of International Law. -- The International Persons or Subjects of International Law are mainly States1 -- the only entities which can become real members of the international community. Strictly speaking, in international relations States alone have legal rights and duties. Though the Law of Nations, in certain cases, regulates relations between States and individuals as well as between the States themselves and thus appears to deal directly with individuals (as in the case of pirates and blockade runners), the laws themselves are rules between States, and it is only as members of a recognized political community that individuals can really be said to possess international rights and obligations.2

The main exception to this rule is the League of Nations which is an International Person sui "generis." I Oppenheim ( 3d ed.), p. 125. The other exceptions are insurgent communities whose belligerency has been recognized. These enjoy a certain legal status as International Persons for purposes of warfare. They may be regarded as inchoate or embryonic States. See infra, No. 115. The Papacy is an apparent rather than a real exception. See infra, No. 89.
Some publicists (as e.g. Heffter, §§ 14, 58; Kaufman, Die Rechtskraft des international Rechts, 1899, §§ 1-4; Westlake, Chapters, 1894, p. 2; and Wheaton, § 19) claim that individuals also are subjects of International Law; but this view is obviously based upon a confusion of terms. Persons and things are objects, not subjects of the Law of Nations. Westlake ( Chapters, p. 2) asserts that "it would be pedantic to deny that the pirate and the blockade runner are subjects of International Law," but he admits that "it is only by virtue of rules prevailing between States that they are so." Rehm ( Unterlanen als Subjekte völkerrechtliche Pflichten, in 1 Z. V. 53-55) thinks that individuals partake of the nature of subjects of the international community as far as international duties are concerned. He raises the very interesting question


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The Essentials of International Public Law and Organization
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