1928

PCIJ

Island of Palmas Case Netherlands v US

After the Spanish-American War of 1898, Spain ceded the Philippines to US. In 1906 a US official visited the island of Palmas, which the US believed to be part of the territory ceded and found a Dutch flag. It has basically native population (less than 1000). The decision was to recognise the Island as Netherlands territory. Resolution Sovereignty signifies independence. Territorial sovereignty involves exclusive right to display the functions of a State. This right has as corollary a duty: obligation to protect within the territory the rights of other states. The development of the national organisations of states during the last few centuries and, as corollary, the development of IL, have established this principle of the exclusive competence of the state in regard to its own territory in such a way as to make it the point of departure in settling most question that concern international relations.

Municipal law is able to recognize abstract rights of property existing apart from any material display of them. IL cannot be presumed to reduce a right such as territorial sovereignty without concrete manifestations [settlement]. A juridical fact must be appreciated in the light of the law contemporary with it, and not of the law in force at the time when a dispute in regard to it arises or falls to be settled. The effect of discovery by Spain is therefore to be determined by the rules of international law in force in the first half of the 16th century … the question arises whether sovereignty yet existed at the critical date, i.e., the moment of the conclusion and coming into force of the Treaty of Paris [1898] As regards the question which of different legal systems prevailing at successive periods is to be applied in a particular case (the so-called inter-temporal rule) a distinction must be made between the creation of rights and the existence of rights …International law in the 19th century … laid down the principle that occupation to constitute a claim to territorial sovereignty must be effective … discovery alone, without any subsequent act, cannot, at the present time suffice to prove sovereignty over the Island of Palmas “A juridical fact must be appreciated in the light of the law contemporary with it, and not of the law in force at the time when a dispute in regard to it arises or falls to be settled” It is evident that Spain could not transfer more rights than she herself possessed.