The Position of Foreign States before National Courts: Chiefly in Continental Europe

By Eleanor Wyllys Allen | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER IV
FOREIGN SOVEREIGNS

IN general what has been said of the immunities of foreign states before national courts applies likewise to foreign sovereigns. So long as they act in their public capacity as representatives of the nations of which they are the head, the courts have no jurisdiction to entertain any complaint against them.1 In determining who are sovereigns, and when they are acting officially, the courts encounter the same difficulty as when dealing with states. In the "Charkieh," Lord Phillimore held that Ismail Pacha, Khedive of Egypt, had not been recognized as a reigning sovereign of the state of Egypt, and hence could not claim immunity for the vessel owned by him but engaged in trade.2 The Sultan of Johore3 and the Gaekwar of Baroda4 were held by English courts to be sovereign rulers who acknowledged no other law than the law of nations, and in France, in 1884, the Pope was held to be a "foreign sovereign."5

As to sovereigns, there is the added complication that the immunity applies only to acts consummated while the sovereign is actually reigning.6 In a suit brought against Isabella of Bourbon, ex-queen of Spain, for a debt for jewels purchased in part while she was still reigning and in part after her deposition by revolution, the Court of Appeal of Paris assumed

____________________
1
De Haber v. Queen of Portugal, Queen's Bench, May 28, 1851, 17 Q. B. 171, 196.
2
The "Charkieh," Admiralty, May 7, 1873, 4 A. and E. 59.
3
Mighell v. Sultan of Johore, Court of Appeal, November 29, 1893, [ 1894] 1 Q. B. 149.
4
Statham v. Statham and Gaekwar of Baroda, Divorce, December 21, 1911, [ 1912] P. 92.
5
Le Ministère Public v. Steenkiste, Tribunal Correctionnel, Ghent, January 15, 1884, Pasicrisie, 1884-3-39.
6
Cf. Article III § 2 of Resolution of Institute of International Law, Hamburg, 1891, concerning competence of courts.

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