Suppose there are two countries which have a treaty or convention between them. One country thinks the other has infringed upon it.

Have there been any instances where the first country filed a suit in the courts of the other to make it abide by the treaty?

  • 1
    I think in such cases they usually go to the International Court of Justice, or WTO.
    – apoorv020
    Jan 17, 2012 at 3:11
  • Trade Agreements and international agreements usually are not covered by internal courts, though I am no lawyer so I can't say it hasn't been tried.
    – MichaelF
    Jan 17, 2012 at 11:48
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    Well, may be in US not covered, but in all other countries they are covered. Otherwise there is no point in making any agreements: International Court of Justice and other international courts have no enforcement powers. In Russia (and in the former USSR) international agreements have priority over normal laws except the constitution.
    – Anixx
    Jan 17, 2012 at 12:23
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    @Anixx After their ratification only.
    – Gangnus
    Jan 28, 2012 at 22:30
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    @Anixx: In colonial circumstances this happens. The Native American nations brought suit against the U.S. in U.S. courts, and Palestinians routinely sue for rights infringement and contract enfringement or property violation in Israeli courts (sometimes successfully, sometimes not). I am not sure if these entities are sufficiently differentiated to be considered countries, or just internally separated nationalities.
    – Ron Maimon
    Mar 29, 2012 at 5:53

3 Answers 3


To my mind, every extradition case is an instance of "a foreign power attempting to compel another country to abide by International Law by means of that [second] country's judiciary".

extradition, in international law, the process by which one state, upon the request of another, effects the return of a person for trial for a crime punishable by the laws of the requesting state and committed outside the state of refuge

  • 1
    For extradition to happen, there is no need for one country to infringe a treaty.
    – Anixx
    Mar 27, 2014 at 12:19
  • @Anixx: Read the question again - you are misinterpreting it. Mar 27, 2014 at 21:21
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    I am the author of the question, so what can I misinterpret?
    – Anixx
    Mar 27, 2014 at 21:25
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    @Anixx: Yes! Read what is actually written, not what you intended to write. Mar 27, 2014 at 21:29
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    @PieterGeerkens nice move, but if you don't limit yourself to the title and consider the opening sentence, you get "two countries which have a treaty or convention between them. One country thinks the other has infringed upon it", which definitely does not apply to this answer.
    – o0'.
    Apr 18, 2014 at 13:18

I would say, it was and it is quite a usual thing. For all state workers are representatives of the state. And if a custom worker holds some goods, he does it by name of his state. And another state could send the case to a court. And it could be decided more or less honestly. Of course, until only relatively small sums were under question and there was no politics in the case.

The second variant - state A does something against agreements, state B goes to the court, state A says it was a mistake of a person C and punishes him or her and everybody is happy - justice won!

Of course, really important cases are solved by power (at best - economical and political, at worst - military). The key question is - what is more important for both sides - the existing relations or the case to be solved.

  • This is not how things work. If you were talking about two US states then yes that would work similar to how you have described things. The original question deals with situations such as France suing the United States for breach of a treaty. However, treaties are set up with dispute resolution mechanisms set up in them. Sovereign nations are considered on equal footing from a jurisdiction standpoint so the only way that they could bring a case against another is through consent. That is fact.
    – ihtkwot
    Feb 10, 2012 at 19:41
  • 1. The first meaning of the world state is "country". So, of course, I meant independent states. 2. Your comment does not contain any arguments against mine, so, it is irrelevant, let alone its being a fact.
    – Gangnus
    Feb 20, 2015 at 13:17
  • I would love to see you provide an actual example in the form of "France v. United States" filed in US courts. Or something similar. Maritime salvage cases are the only thing I can think of close to this, and even there I believe they are filed in an international body.
    – ihtkwot
    Feb 23, 2015 at 0:42
  • @ihtkwot I thought I have this explained... Maybe that is the problem of my English... 1. Any state has a Customs law or a set of such. And all of them have some mutual Customs Treaties. 2. Let it be USA, if you wish. If the France Ministry of Defense is buying something from Lockheed, the goods are passing the USA customs. If there is some serious misunderstanding, it is solved according to the law by the court. Where is the problem?
    – Gangnus
    Feb 23, 2015 at 9:34
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    @Gangus, can you provide some sort of link as evidence? I'm having difficulty figuring out how that would look in a court system. The evidence doesn't have to be in English, I'll take the time to figure out how to translate it if need be.
    – ihtkwot
    Apr 9, 2015 at 19:51


The answer to your question is no.

Countries are considered on equal footing, they are sovereign. For one country's court to compel another country the compelling court would have to have jurisdiction. The only possible scenario by which a court of another sovereign can have jurisdiction over another sovereign is if that other sovereign consents to jurisdiction. This of course would not be in that country's interests and as such they would not consent.

Furthermore, if France and the USA could just sue each other in each other's courts to resolve disputes what would be the point of diplomacy? France no more wants the USA to be able to sue France in US courts, than the USA wants France to be able to sue the US in French courts.

These principles come from long ago established international law. There are only four scenarios by which a court can exercise jurisdiction over a party:

    ○ Property in state attached at the commencement of law suit
    ○ Resident of the state
    ○ Consent, by appearing in court
    ○ Physically present in the state and served personally with process

For further explanation see Pennoyer v. Neff.

Additionally, you have the issue of sovereign immunity. The United Nations Convention on Jurisdictional Immunities of States and Their Property details how, and why, State's cannot be sued by other states unless they have consented.

The International Court of Justice is the exclusive court for state v. state claims.

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    It is absolutely inevident how you concluded that once the treaty became a law, there is no need to enforce it through the court system. Yes, it becomes a law. But it does not mean that all treaties are always well abided.
    – Anixx
    Feb 1, 2012 at 8:08
  • Of course sometimes a private party may be interested to use the treaty in the court and I suppose such cases are frequent. But I am interested in cases when not a private party, but another state (or its government) filed a suit.
    – Anixx
    Feb 1, 2012 at 8:12
  • I never said that there was no need to enforce it through the court system. My point is that the idea of a Sovereign suing another Sovereign inside the other Sovereign's court system does not make conceptual sense. States, Sovereign actors, only avenue of recourse is through the International Court of Justice. If say you had a treaty where Country A agrees to give Country B some land. Country A then doesn't give it to Country B. Your question would suppose that Country A's courts would impose Country A to give said land to Country B. That simply does not happen.
    – ihtkwot
    Feb 1, 2012 at 18:11
  • For a State to have jurisdiction there have historically been four scenarios that allowed it: Citizens; Defendant who consents; Property found in the sovereign territory attached at the commencement of the lawsuit; Physically present in the state and are personally served in the state. So in those situations where would a country fit into the scheme?
    – ihtkwot
    Feb 1, 2012 at 18:26
  • As I already said International Court of Justice has no enforcement powers and its decisions are not binding. The only way to persuade any body or official to abide a law is to obtain a decision of a local court (which always has all enforcement powers). Also a question can go into ICJ only if the both parties agree.
    – Anixx
    Feb 1, 2012 at 20:55

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