The Essentials of International Public Law and Organization

By Amos S. Hershey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXIV
NON-AMICABLE OR FORCIBLE MODES OF SETTLEMENT OF INTERNATIONAL DISPUTES

There are at least six non-amicable methods of settling international disputes. These may also be considered as modes of self-help.

321. (I) Retorsion. -- Retorsion is a species of retaliation in kind. It consists in treating in the same or similar manner a foreign State or its subjects chargeable with acts which, though perhaps not illegal,1 are discourteous, unfair, offensive or otherwise injurious. It is usually applied by way of retaliation for discriminatory legislation or administrative action, such as hostile tariffs, exclusion or unfair treatment of foreigners of a particular nationality, or denial of civil rights to aliens. Retorsion is essentially a remedy for political, racial, or economic grievances, and should be used as a means of securing fair and honorable treatment rather than from motives of punishment or vengeance.2

322. (II) Reprisals. -- Reprisals,3 are general retaliatory measures for violations of law or international delinquencies, more particularly denials of justice.4 They consist in such

____________________
1
Oppenheim (II, § 29) maintains that retorsion can only be applied as a remedy for political differences. It is difficult to see why it cannot be applied to legal differences as well, though it is true that these should always be settled by arbitration, or other pacific mode of settlement, if at all possible. For a view contrary to that of Oppenheim, see 2 Westlake, 6.
2
Several examples of retorsion may be found in 7 Moore, Digest, § 1090 and in 2 Hyde, § 588.
3
Reprisal in time of peace should not be confounded with reprisals in time of war. For the latter, see infra, No. 337.
4
On the "Responsibility of a State for International Delinquencies," see supra, ch. 11.

Reprisals were formerly classified as general and special, but special reprisals are obsolete. Down to the end of the eighteenth century States frequently issued licenses or "Letters of Marque and Reprisal" to such of their subjects as had been injured abroad, authorizing them to indemnify themselves upon the property of the subjects of the offending State. These were called special reprisals.

All reprisals are now, in a certain sense, general in character and, since the abolition of privateerinig, are executed by the State or government itself.

-537-

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