Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


Guido Acquaviva

First Page



In this Article, the Author challenges the definition of the term "state" that is commonly accepted in legal scholarship as the basis for assessing whether an entity is a subject of international law. By analyzing a number of cases that do not fit into the "traditional" model--including the Holy See, Napoleon, and the Confederacy--the Author reaches the conclusion that the only essential element of a subject of international law is its sovereignty. An entity is sovereign when it is able effectively to assert that it is not subordinate to another authority: territory and population are therefore not essential attributes of international personality. The Author also explores the close relationship between the status of an entity as a subject of international law and international responsibility. The conclusions and analytical approaches employed in the Article are applicable to the study of entities long considered "lesser" subjects than states, such as intergovernmental organizations, insurgents, or belligerents, and even to the analysis of contemporary terrorist networks such as al-Qaeda.