The S.S. Lotus Case
P.C.I.J. Ser. A, No. 10, p. 4 (1927)
A French ship (the S.S. Lotus),
collided with a Turkish ship in international waters, killing some Turkish
The French ship then docked
Turkey attempted to try the
French officer in charge of the Lotus for negligence.
They found him guilty and
sentenced him to 80 days in jail.
France went to the Permanent
Court of International Justice (P.C.I.J.) and argued that Turkey did not
have jurisdiction to try the French
officers, because they were on a French boat in international waters at
the time of the accident.
Turkey argued that since
their nationals were killed, they had jurisdiction to try those
responsible for the deaths.
France argued that as a
matter of customary international law, the flag of the vessel (in this
case France) has exclusive jurisdiction.
The PCIJ found that Turkey did
have the right to try the French sailors.
The PCIJ basically found
that since the two ships were involved in the same accident, that both
countries had concurrent jurisdiction over the accident.
The PCIJ found that
customary international law gave France jurisdiction, but it didn't give
them exclusive jurisdiction.
law, everything that isn't prohibited is permitted."
This case led to the Lotus
Principle (aka the Lotus
Approach), which says that sovereign
states may act in any way they wish so long as they do not contravene an
The Lotus Principle was later overruled by the 1958 High Seas
Article 11(1) says that only the flag State or the State
of which the alleged offender was a national has jurisdiction over
sailors regarding incidents occurring in high seas.