Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



International law is generally considered to be law that governs the conduct of sovereign states only. While individual private persons, both natural and juridical, undoubtedly are third-party beneficiaries of the rights and duties created by international law, those rights and duties, in the classical analysis, run only among sovereigns. Because rules of international law and treaties constitute obligations among or between sovereign states, a violation of international law imposes international responsibility not to the private parties who are injured by the violation but to the sovereign states of which they are members. Private parties, therefore, generally have no standing to assert a violation of international law. The injured private party's legal recourse directly against a foreign sovereign is generally limited to the remedies available within the framework of the particular foreign sovereign's municipal legal system. When these remedies have been exhausted and there remains a possibility that the foreign sovereign's actions concerning the injured private party are in violation of a duty imposed by international law, it is only the state of which the private party is a national that may demand redress by the foreign sovereign for the alleged violation of its international duty. Moreover, in demanding redress, the claimant state neither represents its national who has sustained the injury nor gives effect to his "right"; rather, the claimant state represents its own right--i.e. its right to have its citizens treated by other states in the manner prescribed by international law.