Comity of Nations
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Comity of Nations
(Latin, comitas gentium), a set of rules of conduct for states that have international relations—for example, the granting of immunity from customs search and customs duties to the person and personal luggage of a diplomatic agent should there be no agreement on that subject and the extension by a state to a diplomatic agent of wider privileges and immunities than are necessary for his unimpeded passage through the state. Such rules of conduct are applied on the basis of reciprocity or at the desire of one of the states. They are not legally binding and in this respect differ from the rules of international law. At the same time, failure to observe them is often regarded as an unfriendly act, though no international legal responsibility can thereby be incurred, and such an act cannot serve as a reason for rétorsion de droit or the presentation of any kind of claim.
Historically the comity of nations served as the basis for the framing of rules of international law. In ancient and even in medieval times the accordance of diplomatic privileges and immunities was an expression of such comity, and in the 17th and 18th centuries the ceremonial rules applying to diplomatic representatives were an important part of international law. (Today these rules are an essential element in the comity of nations.) The rules of the comity of nations were applied also in international civil relations. In the 17th and 18th centuries the jurists of a number of countries (for example, 17th-century Dutch jurists) considered that the application of foreign law was based on this comity.
The difference between the rules of the comity of nations and the norms of international law is by no means always observed in practice. Thus, in Anglo-American legal procedure the concept of the comity of nations is used in the sense of “contacts between nations,” “mutual regard,” and “goodwill.” British and American courts often refer to the comity of nations in cases in which it would be more correct to use the term “international law.” For example, in court decisions it is stated that the legal immunity of a head of state or of a diplomatic agent is derived from the comity of nations.
I. P. BLISHCHENKO and V. I. MENZHINSKII