Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Erga Omnes Definition:

Latin: towards everyone.

Related Terms: In tota fine erga omnes et omnia, Jus Cogens

Also ergo omnes.

A erga omnes law or legal act applies as against every individual, person or state without distinction.

For example, a judicial declaration that a certain marriage is null and void is stated to be erga omnes so that it is understood to have that status towards the world at large and not just the celebrants.

Similarly, a statute can be struck down (for constitutional reasons, for example) in which event, it is always struck down not just as between parries to litigation, but erga omnes.

Some legal acts are intended to be effective only as between the parties, as private law, such as a waiver, and are not intended nor are they in law, erga omnes.

See also in tota fine, erga omnes et omnia (for all purposes, in regards to all and everything).

In international law, some basic legal precepts are stated to be erga omnes, such as a prohibition against torture, piracy child labor, and in support of state immunity. Indeed, it is a frequent refrain in international law that what is jus cogens is erga omnes and superior in effect to other rules of international law.

In Barcelona Traction, Light and Power Company, at 33, the International Court of Justice held:

"When a State admits into its territory foreign investments or foreign nationals, whether natural or juristic persons, it is bound to extend to them the protection of the law and assumes obligations concerning the treatment to be afforded them. These obligations, however, are neither absolute nor unqualified. In particular, an essential distinction should be drawn between the obligations of a State towards the international community as a whole, and those arising vis-à-vis another State in the field of diplomatic protection. By their very nature the former are the concern of al1 States. In view of the importance of the rights involved, al1 States can be held to have a legal interest in their protection; they are obligations erga omnes."

In Mohamed, Justice Thomas of the England & Wales High Court used these words:

"(T)he prohibition on State torture imposes obligations owed by states erga omnes, to all other states which have a corresponding right and interest in compliance."

Similarly, these words of Brooklyn Law School professor David Buffa:

"In short, ergo omnes obligations are those obligations for which all states have a legal interest in fulfillment by reason of the importance of their subject-matter to the international community.... preemptory norms that states have a duty to refrain from irrespective of any treaty, because the obligatory duty of compliance is understood as being owed to the international community as a whole."

Consider, also, these words which can be found in Compagnie nationale Air France c. Mbaye:

"... imperative standards of international law that cannot be derogated from.... (They are) erga omnes (and) do not require ratification or integration into national law to be enforceable in all countries.

"While it is true that the general, customary practice is to integrate laws and regulations on the application of an international system of law into domestic law, it has already been emphasized that erga omnes, the transnational public order obligation related to jus cogens, does not require translation into the national system of law nor the promulgation of any instrument, contrary to what is required in the case of international treaties, the latter not being mandatory unless ratified and integrated within national law."

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