Part-Sovereign States

Kinds of Part-Sovereign States. Many writers, especially on international law, recognize as states certain communities that are not entirely independent and therefore not fully sovereign in their external relations and may not be completely so in respect to their internal affairs.

They are sometimes designated as half-sovereign states, sometimes merely as part-sovereign-states. To some degree, subject to other states’ control, they enjoy a large measure of local autonomy and often possess an imperfect or limited international personality.

Examples of such states are:

  • Members of federal unions.
  • Vassal states, that is, states under the suzerainty of other states.
  • States under the protection of other states, and
  • States under League of Nations mandates.

Some writers would also add permanently neutralized states to the list since the relationship between the part-sovereign state and the superior state upon which it is more or less dependent varies according to the circumstances of each particular case; it is impossible to formulate a general rule which would accurately describe all states belonging to each class.

Members of Federal Unions:-

As to the members of federal unions, the View has already been maintained in the chapter on sovereignty that while popular usage attributes to them the character of states, it is scientifically inexact to speak pf-them as being partly sovereign and partly nonsovereign for the reason that sovereignty is a unit and therefore incapable of division without being destroyed.

There maintained that the members of federal unions are nonsovereign communities and that what is really divided between them and the state of which they are a part is not sovereignty but jurisdiction or governmental power.

Indeed, the right of members of federal unions to a limited power of legation and of diplomatic intercourse has occasionally been left to them (for example, the states of the German Empire, 1871-,1918). Still, it was not a right of sovereignty since it was conferred by the constitution and could have been withdrawn by a constitutional amendment.

Vassal States:-

The second group of so-called part-sovereign states, vassal states under the suzerainty of other states, are, says. Hall, portions of states that during a process of gradual disruption or by the grace of the sovereign have acquired certain of the powers of an independent community, such as making commercial conventions or conferring their exequaturs upon foreign consuls.

The paramount state is called the suzerain. Its relation to the Subject state is described by the term “suzerainty” The relation between the suzerain state and the Vassal state depends upon the circumstances of the particular case. In general, it may be said that the vassal community has only such rights as having been expressly granted to it by the suzerain. It usually has a limited international capacity but is subject wholly or partly to the suzerain in managing its foreign affairs.

It is, however, generally independent of foreign control as regards its internal affairs. In the conduct, if its foreign relations, the suzerain may have the full power of initiation or Partial initiation or only the negative power of veto over the vassal state’s acts. Former examples of vassal states were Bulgaria, Egypt, Rumania, Serbia, and Montenegro-all under the Ottoman Empire’s suzerainty, but all of which eventually acquired their independence of the Porte.

The former South African Republic under the suzerainty of Great Britain from 1884 to 1901 Was another example. There are no examples in existence today; as a type of political relationship, it was always abnormal and provisional and was bound to disappear in the course of the world’s political evolution. Of those which once existed, some, like those under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire, were terminated by successful revolt others, as the South African Republic came to an end as a result of conquest and annexation by the suzerain state.


For international law, says a noted authority, a protected state is one which, in consequence of its weakness, has placed itself under the protection of another power on defined conditions or has been so placed under an arrangement between powers the interests of which are involved in the disposition.

The establishment of a protectorate usually occurs when a weak state places itself under the guardianship and protection of a more powerful state. Unlike a community under the suzerainty of another state, a protected state’s rights are rather residuary than delegated in their nature. The presumption, therefore, favors any international capacity claimed by it. As in the case of the vassal state, the exact relationship between a protected state and the protecting state varies with the circumstances of each particular case.

In the great majority of cases, the former surrenders to the latter control over its international relations and sometimes also certain of its powers of internal administration, especially those relating to military gains, administration of justice, and the levying of certain taxes. In all other respects, it remains an independent state with its own constitution, its own citizens, and its own system of law and government, unless the treaty establishing the protectorate otherwise provides. Treaties between the protecting state and other states are not binding upon the protected state, nor is it necessarily involved in a war between the protector and other states.

Existing Protectorates:-

The only states forming protectorates in the strict legal sense to-day are the petty republic of Andorra in the Valley of the Pyrenees (191 square miles, population about 5000), which is under the joint protection of France and Spain and apparently the principality of Monaco (8 square miles, population about 22,000), whose independence, sovereignty, and territory are guaranteed by France (treaty of July 17, 1918) and Which in return has engaged in exercising its rights of sovereignty in perfect accord with the political, military, naval, and economic interests of France, and in abstaining from alienating its territory, wholly or in part, to any other power than France.

In case of a vacancy in succession to the crown, the principality shall form under the protection of France an autonomous state under éthe name of the state of Monaco. Some writers also consider the petty Republic of San Marino, an Italy enclave (38 square miles, population about 14,000), to be a protectorate of Italy. Still, there is a difference of opinion as to its exact status. Some writers have considered Cuba (in 1903-1934) and Panama and even the Dominican Republic and Haiti as of the United States, resulting from recent treaties between the United States and those republics.

As to Panama (see the treaty of Nov. 18, 1903), there would seem to be no doubt that it is virtually nude the protection of the United States as to the others the relationship is, or was, under treaties not very different (see, for example, the so-called Platt Amendment, in effect 1903-1934 by treaty With Cuba).

By the treaty of Versailles, Danzig’s German free city was placed under the protection of the League of Nations. In contrast, the control of its foreign affairs and the protection of its nationals in foreign countries were vested in Poland’s government.

Among former examples of protectorates which have disappeared either through annexation to the protecting state, through cession to other states, or through the concession to them of independence may be mentioned the Ionian Islands, under the protection of Great Britain, 1815-1863. Madagascar, under the protection of France, 1863-1896. Abyssinia, under the protection of Italy 1889-1896. Korea, under the protection of Japan, 1904-1919, and Egypt, under the protection of Great Britain, virtually from 1883, formally from 1914to 1922.

There are still numerous colonies and territories in Africa and Asia that constitute European powers’ protectorates, but they are not states. Among them may be mentioned Tunis, Morocco, Zanzibar, Tonkin, Annam, the Malay States, and various others.

States under Mandate:-

Certain territories formerly constituting a part of the Ottoman Empire, namely Palestine and Trans Jordan, which were placed under the administration of Great Britain, as the mandatory power, acting on behalf of the League of Nations, are now generally regarded as part-sovereign states. The same is true of Syria, under a mandate to France (and was also true of Iraq, formerly Mesopotamia, under a mandate to Great Britain until 1927).

The Covenant of the League of Nations refers to these territories as having reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized subject to the rendering of administration. Advice or assistance by a Mandatory until they can stand alarmed. However, there is still a difference of opinion as to the exact juridical status of these states.

They are sometimes listed as independent states, which hardly seems in accord with the facts. On the other hand, they are certainly not under the complete sovereignty of the mandatory powers. Their inhabitants are not regarded as nationals of the mandatory power, and they retain a large measure of local autonomy.

One writer’s view that the sovereignty of these states is in suspense during the operation of the mandates under which they are administered not entirely satisfactory. The view of Professor Quincy Wright, ascribing the sovereignty of the mandated territories to the mandatory power acting with the Council of the League’s consent, is perhaps as satisfactory an interpretation as can be reached. It follows, therefore, that neither the mandatory power nor the territory under mandate is fully sovereign.

Neutralized States:-

A state whose independence and territorial inviolability have been guaranteed by other states’ joint action and placed in a condition in which it is forbidden to engage in offensive war is said to be neutralized. Its immunity from the attack on the part of other states is usually guaranteed by compensation for the restriction placed upon its freedom of action about making offensive war.

The status of neutralization may be conferred upon a weak state at its own request as a means of protection against ambitions and unscrupulous neighbors, or it may be conferred without regard to its own wishes by Other states out of considerations affecting the general peace or the balance of power. Small states so geographically situated that they are in danger of being overrun by contending armies and having their neutrality otherwise disregarded by opposing belligerents have usually been neutralized by the collective action of other states.

The method by which neutralization takes place is always by treaty between the powers concerned. The state so neutralized must abstain from engaging in hostilities against other states except for defense and~must avoid international engagements that might involve war With another state. In all other respects, it is fully sovereign and independent, and can enter into treaties of all kinds, except possibly those of alliance and guarantee, and can usually maintain armies and navies and erect fortifications for defense purposes.

Some writers maintain that it cannot alienate any portion of its territory or extend its domain by acquiring new territories. Still, the majority of writers deny this View, and it would seem just so.

Examples of Neutralized States:-

The most important examples during the nineteenth century of neutralized states were Switzerland, whose perpetual neutrality was recognized and guaranteed by the powers signatory to, and adherents of, the Act of the Vienna Congress of 1815; Belgium, whose independence and perpetual neutrality was guaranteed by the five signatory powers to the Treaty of London in 1831 (renewed in:1889), and Luxemburg, whose neutrality (unlike the others, unarmed neutrality) was recognized and collectively guaranteed by the powers signatory to the Treaty of London of May. 11, 1867.

Any party has seriously violated the neutralization of Switzerland to the treaty or by any other country, and Switzerland, on her part, has strictly and scrupulously fulfilled her obligations under the treaty. But, as is well known, although. Prussia was a signatory of both treaties of neutralization; Germany invaded France, Belgium, and Luxemburg in 1914 in violation oi? the treaties.

The German government requested the right of passage for its troops across Belgium, apparently assuming that the granting of the request by Belgium would not be incompatible with her obligations under the treaty of neutralization. The Belgian government, Ivery correctly, took the position that it could not grant the request, even if it were disposed to do so, without itself-Voting the treaty. Practically all jurists agree that granting the right of passage to Germany would have been inconsistent with Belgium’s neutralized status.

Right of Neutralized States to Enter into Defensive Alliances an: Acquire Colonies:-

Some German jurists later maintained in defense of Germany conduct that Belgium own policy had been inconsistent with her status of neutralization, in that she had before the war virtually entered into a military alliance with Great Britain and that by the acquisition of the Congo territory in Africa her position as a European power had been so altered as to render the neutralization treaty no longer binding.

Even admitting that it was an alliance to defend the guaranteed neutrality against its possible violation by one of the guarantors, it would hardly seem to have been incompatible with Belgium’s neutralized status. In fact, most writers maintain that a neutralized state has an undoubted right to enter into alliances for the defense of its neutrality, and some hold that it is bound to take all steps necessary to protect that neutrality.

It is, of course, otherwise in the case of offensive alliances. Regarding the German contention that the acquisition by a neutralized state of colonies is inconsistent with the status of neutralization, that too does not seem well-founded. Had Belgium enlarged her European territory so that her position as a small buffer state would have been altered, the German objection would have been entitled to more weight. The acquisition of African territory did not change in any fundamental respect Belgium’s position as a European power.

In consequence of the neutralization treaty’s failure to afford the security which it guaranteed, Belgium at the close of the World War made known her desire to be liberated from the status of neutralization. Consequently, the neutralization treaty of 1839 was declared by the treaty of Versailles (Art: 31) to be abrogated. By the same treaty, the neutralization of Luxemburg was terminated. Switzerland, therefore, remains the only European state which is neutralized.