Individual Legal Personality in International Law

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Topic: Politics & Government
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The individual is considered as a legal personality when one becomes involved in a legal system and gains particular rights and obligations. The question of whether the legal status can be obtained by individuals on an international basis attracted the attention of many commentators.

All people were claimed to be under the executive control of States from the 17th until the 20th century, which meant that they have no general position of international law, and there were only some cases when individuals were relevant in international affairs. The situation changed greatly in 1928, as it was proclaimed that the agreement between Poland and Germany was not able to create the rights and obligations that the individuals had to follow.

Direct duties and responsibilities of individuals were imposed in 1746 at Nuremberg, and then the international criminal court created international communities and referred to the Rome Statute to create the major principles of criminal law (Kaczorowska 214). In traditional international law, the international legal status of individuals started to be discussed only with the appearance of piracy.

It was argued the obligations that dealt with piracy were imposed directly on people, as some believed the States to be in charge of punishing them regardless the nationality. The issue remained unsolved as the individuals gained juridical protection only if it was accepted by the State and had particular obligations from international law, but their rights were not discussed.

Today States do not have that monopoly that they used to have, and their ability to reduce the powers of organizations reduces. Except for that, individuals’ international interests were taken into consideration, and people gained legal rights. As a result, a range of obligations was imposed on them when they acted as State officials and private ones due to the customary rules. In case the obligations were breached, a person was likely to be criminally liable.

The corresponding rights were not attended by the enforcement of individuals. According to international treaties, the substantive rights can be protected only in the framework of the domestic legal system. The right to petition international bodies was granted by international rules. However, there were some limitations as people could gain only procedural rights granted by treaties, and not all states had parties to them (Cassese 150).

Thus, only a limited part of international law, including rights and obligations, is given to individuals. In other words, they have a limited legal capacity. Currently, individuals are seen as partial subjects of international law that created rights and obligations for them.

In the perspective of international law, international crimes are also discussed, as they are committed not only by States but also by people. For international laws to be effective, those who occurred to be involved in such actions are to be punished. Needless to say that a person is to take responsibility for the crime only under the law that defines legal norms. The duties of people under criminal law originate from the treaties between States.

As it was mentioned earlier, the criminal responsibility is mainly considered by the international criminal court and is based in the Rome Statute. However, the ability of treaties to raise individual criminal responsibility is thought to be controversial. As a result, today, treaties create obligations only for States, which, in their turn, direct them to individuals.

That is why the legislation differs in different locations. The individual criminal responsibility was considered by the international courts in regard to the treaties that were created in the 19th century on the basis of the laws of war. Primary, they were mainly focused on the rights and obligations of States that are why they needed to be revised.

Only Art. 41 Conventions that entered into force at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century changed the situation. They allowed prosecuting the individuals, which was not earlier maintained. Regardless of the laws of war, “customary law for piracy, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity” controlled individual criminal responsibility (O’Shea 3).

As a consequence, a number of treaties that were focused on particular crimes occur, including those connected with genocide and slavery, etc. after that such international crime as offenses relating to nuclear material and those related to diplomatic agents were considered and followed by new treaties.

In the framework of international crime, State and individual responsibility seem to be similar. Still, when the crime is conducted by the individual, the State is not considered to take responsibility while State crimes are discussed in relation to individuals and is claimed to be collective. State and individual responsibility for international crimes are investigated by different bodies and are treated according to different rules, as people are only partial subjects of international law, unlike States. As a consequence of international crimes conducted by the State, its organs are prosecuted (Crawford and Olleson 464).

Thus, it can be concluded that, from the perspective of international law, individuals were not considered for a long time. With the course of time, they received limited legal capacity, and their duties and rights were established as well as punishment for their abuse.

Works Cited

Cassese, Antonio. International Law, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Print.

Crawford, James, and Olleson, Simon. “The Nature and Forms of International Responsibility.”
International Law. Ed. Malcolm Evans. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. 441-471. Print.

Kaczorowska, Alina. Public International Law, London: Routledge, 2010. Print.

O’Shea, Andreas. “Individual Criminal Responsibility.” Encyclopedia of Public International Law. Ed. Max Planck. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. 1-8. Print.