Understanding international jurisdiction


The powers of any court and its overall jurisdiction are a defined territory. You must comply with all the laws and other regulations in the UK, as this is the territory that the UK courts have jurisdiction over.

International jurisdiction, as its name suggests, gives powers to certain courts that can include jurisdiction across some national borders.

International jurisdiction

In most cases international jurisdiction is agreed with all the countries concerned for the common good. For example:

  • The International Criminal Court (ICC)
  • This court has international jurisdiction as it is based on the Rome Statute that 110 countries have signed
  • It means in practice that the ICC can hear cases of serious criminal activity from any country that has signed the treaty

The idea of global or universal international jurisdiction is also part of international law. Without this organisations like the United Nations or the World Trade Organisation could not function. The cooperation that international jurisdiction requires is often written into national jurisdictions to ensure international law can function properly.

In Europe, for instance, the European Court of Justice has international jurisdiction status so the court can carry out its duties.

All citizens must be aware of the laws that form part of their national jurisdictions, and how international jurisdiction can also impact on their activities. Individuals and businesses alike can be influenced by international jurisdiction.

International trade

If you trade internationally, then international law, jurisdiction of disputes, and the law that governs any contract must all be carefully considered. It is important that you instruct a specialist solicitor with international experience to assist you before you enter into any agreement. If you are to trade internationally, you will need to have a written contract, if you are:

  • Selling your products or services internationally
  • Making part of the manufacturing process happen in another country

A specialist solicitor will be able to assist you to draft the necessary agreement.

If you are to trade internationally it is important that your solicitor drafts particular clauses into your agreement so as not to fall foul of international law. Jurisdiction clauses are usually drafted towards the end of a contract, though they will be effective regardless of their position.

A jurisdiction clause will state which jurisdiction’s laws apply to the agreement and will also state in which jurisdiction any dispute will be heard. It is absolutely crucial that these clauses are properly drafted so as to give them legal effect.

Dispute resolution

Failure to do so may mean that you require a decision by an international court as to where the dispute should be heard and then a decision in that jurisdiction as to the outcome of the dispute. This method of solving a dispute is costly and lengthy and ensuring that a watertight contract is used at the outset will help to avoid any unnecessary litigation.

If you or your business is accused of breaking any laws or regulations that have an international component, a specialised solicitor can help you interpret the law and represent you if your case comes to court. Never try and handle an international law case yourself. They can be highly complex and should be handled by qualified solicitors.

If you are in any doubt about the legality of your activities always seek qualified legal advice. Specialist solicitors that have knowledge of international law and its interpretation by each jurisdiction can be invaluable.

For more information on doing business overseas, see our page on international trade law.

Do you have a case that involves a number of jurisdictions? Contact Law can put you in touch with a specialist international lawyer that is insured to deal with your jurisdictional matter. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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