Lotus case

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Lotus principle)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The Lotus Case
CourtPermanent Court of International Justice
Full case nameThe Case of the S.S. "Lotus" (France v. Turkey)
Court membership
Judges sittingHuber, Loder, Weiss, Finlay, Nyholm, Moore, de Bustamante, Altamira, Oda, Anzilotti, Pessoa,Feizi-Dame Bey

The Lotus case concerns a criminal trial which was the result of the 2 August 1926 collision between the S.S. Lotus, a French steamer, and the S.S. Bozkourt, a Turkish steamer, in a region just north of Mytilene (Greece). As a result of the accident, eight Turkish nationals aboard the Bozkourt drowned when the vessel was torn apart by the Lotus.


On 7 September 1927 the case was presented before the Permanent Court of International Justice, the judicial branch of the League of Nations, the predecessor of the United Nations.

The issue at stake was Turkey's jurisdiction to try Monsieur Demons, the French lieutenant on watch duty at the time of the collision. Since the collision occurred on the high seas, France claimed that the state whose flag the vessel flew had exclusive jurisdiction over the matter. France proffered case law, through which it attempted to show at least state practice in support of its position. However, those cases involved ships that both flew the flag of the same state. The Court, therefore, by a bare majority, rejected France's position stating that there was no rule to that effect in international law.

Lotus principle[edit]

The Lotus principle or Lotus approach, usually considered a foundation of international law, says that sovereign states may act in any way they wish so long as they do not contravene an explicit prohibition. The application of this principle – an outgrowth of the Lotus case – to future incidents raising the issue of jurisdiction over people on the high seas was changed by article 11[1] of the 1958 High Seas Convention. The convention, held in Geneva, laid emphasis on the fact that only the flag state or the state of which the alleged offender was a national had jurisdiction over sailors regarding incidents occurring in high seas.

This "flag state principle" has since been also been implemented in United Nations Convention on the Law Of the Sea (UNCLOS), e.g. in article 92 and, in regards to enforcement of environmental legislation, article 217(1).[2]

The principle has also been used in arguments against the reasons of the United States of America for opposing the existence of the International Criminal Court (ICC).[3]

Mahmut Esat Bozkurt[edit]

In the court the Turkish side was represented by Mahmut Esat Bozkurt, the Minister of Justice. In 1934, when Turkey adopted the formal surname system, Mahmut Esat chose the surname Bozkurt as a reminiscence of the case.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Convention of the High Seas (1958)
  2. ^ Jesper Jarl Fanø 2019). 'Enforcing International Maritime Legislation on Air Pollution through UNCLOS'. Hart Publishing. Ch. 6 and 8.
  3. ^ US Opposition to the International Criminal Court
  4. ^ "Bozkurt Case, aka the Lotus Case (France v Turkey):Two Ships that Go Bump in the Night" (PDF). p. 1. Retrieved 19 April 2020.