1923

PCIJ

The Wimbledon Case France, Italy, Japan, UK v Germany

The Kiel canal cut through Germany and links the Baltic and North Seas. Article 380of the Treaty of Versailles 1919 established “The Kiel Canal and its approaches shall be maintained free and open to the vessels of commerce and war of all nations at peace with Germany on terms of entire equality” The SS Wimbledon claimed free passage. Germany said that it would signify violation of neutrality in armed conflict. [there is no a priori limit to the subject matters on which states may assume international obligations]

The canal has cease to be internal and national navigable waterway the use of which by vessels of states other than the riparian is left entirely to the discretion of that state and has become international waterway intended to provide access to the Baltic for the benefit of all nations. The court declines to see, in the conclusion of any treaty by which a state undertakes to perform or refrain from performance a particular act, an abandonment of sovereignty. The right to entering into international agreements is an attribute of State sovereignty. Whether it is a servitude or not, Germany had to submit to an important limitation of the exercise of sovereign rights which no one disputes she possesses over the Canal. This fact (restriction over sovereignty) is sufficient reason for restrictive interpretation, but not to the limit where it would be contrary to the terms of the treaty and destroy what is granted.