Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Law of the Flag Definition:

A principle of maritime and international law; that the sailors and vessel will be subject to the laws of the state corresponding to the flag flown by the vessel.

In US v Jho, Justice Garza wrote:

"[T]he law of the flag doctrine ... provides that a merchant ship is part of the territory of the country whose flag she flies, and that actions aboard that ship are subject to the laws of the flag state.

"However ... jurisdiction may be exercised concurrently by a flag state and a territorial state.

"The law of the flag doctrine does not mandate that anything that occurs aboard a ship must be handled by the flag state.... [T]he law of the flag doctrine does not completely trump a sovereign's territorial jurisdiction to prosecute violations of its laws. The law of the flag doctrine is chiefly applicable to ships on the high seas, where there is no territorial sovereign; and as respects ships in foreign territorial waters it has little application beyond what is affirmatively or tacitly permitted by the local sovereign.

"The flag state's jurisdiction is not exclusive when the ship is in a port or internal waters of another state."


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