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Sovereign Immunity: A Venerable Concept in Transition?

Sovereign immunity, the principle derived from the ancient truism that the king can do no wrong and holding that nations are immune from the jurisdiction of other nations courts, is recognized by virtually every nation in the world. Despite the principles universality, however, its application differs across states. Some states extend sovereign immunity as a matter of comity, while others have codified the doctrine in their jurisdictional statutes. Some states, such as China, afford foreign states absolute immunity, while the majority of nations, including the United States, have adopted a more restrictive approach that immunizes foreign states from suit in connection with sovereign acts but leaves them subject to suit in connection with commercial acts.


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