Act of State Doctrine

The act of state doctrine is a legal principle that provides courts with a basis for refraining from reviewing or interfering with the validity or legality of actions taken by foreign governments within their own territories. It recognises the principle of sovereign immunity and the notion that courts should not pass judgment on the acts of foreign states.

The act of state doctrine is rooted in principles of international law and the concept of separation of powers. It holds that courts should not question or invalidate acts done by foreign governments in their official capacity within their own jurisdictions. This doctrine promotes respect for the sovereignty and autonomy of foreign states and avoids potential interference in their internal affairs.

Under the act of state doctrine, when a court is presented with a case involving the legality or validity of an act of a foreign government, it will generally defer to the doctrine and decline to examine the merits of the foreign state's actions. The doctrine operates as a shield, protecting the acts of foreign governments from judicial scrutiny and preventing courts from making determinations that could infringe upon the sovereignty of another nation.

However, it is important to note that the act of state doctrine is not absolute and may have exceptions. For instance, if an act violates international law, engages in human rights abuses, or conflicts with the laws or policies of the forum state, a court may be compelled to examine the act despite the doctrine.

The act of state doctrine serves to maintain respect for the sovereignty and independence of foreign states, promote international comity, and avoid judicial interference in matters that are considered the exclusive domain of other countries. It recognises that political and diplomatic avenues are often more appropriate for addressing disputes involving the actions of foreign governments.
Back to blog

UOL Case Bank

Upon joining, you become a valuable UOL student and gain instant access to over 2,100 case summaries. UOL Case Bank is constantly expanding. Speed up your revision with us now.

Subscribe Now

Where are our students from?

Yale University
Council of Europe
Baker Mckenzie 
University of Chicago
Columbia University
New York University
University of Michigan 
University College London (UCL)
London School of Economics (LSE)
King’s College London (KCL)
University of London
University of Manchester
University of Zurich
University of York
Brandeis University
University of Exeter
University of Sheffield
Boston University
University of Washington
University of Leeds
University of Law
Royal Holloway, University of London 
Birkbeck, University of London
SOAS, University of London
University of Kent
University of Hull
Queen’s University Belfast
Toronto Metropolitan University
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
University of Buckingham
ESSEC Business School

  • Criminal Practice

    Diagrams and Charts

    Our carefully designed diagrams and charts will guide you through complex legal issues.

  • Criminal Law

    Clear and Succinct Definitions

    Key concepts are concisely defined to help you understand legal topics quickly.

  • Property Law

    Statutory Provisions

    Statutory provisions are provided side by side with legal concepts to help you swiftly locate the relevant legislation.

  • Public Law

    Case Summaries

    We have summarised important cases for you so that you don't need to read long and boring cases.

  • Evidence

    Rules and Exceptions

    Rules and exceptions are clearly listed so that you know when a rule applies and when it doesn't.

  • Company Law


    Legal terms and key concepts are explained at the beginning of each chapter to help you learn efficiently.

  • Case Law

    Case law is provided side by side with legal concepts so that you know how legal principles and precedents were established.

  • Law Exam Guide

    Law Essay Guide

    You will learn essential law exam skills and essay writing techniques that are not taught in class.

  • Law Exam Guide

    Problem Question Guide

    We will show you how to answer problem questions step by step to achieve first-class results.

  • Conflict of Laws

    Structured Explanations

    Complex legal concepts are broken down into concise and digestible bullet point explanations.

  • Legal System and Method

    Legal Research

    You will learn legal research techniques with our study guide and become a proficient legal researcher.

  • Jurisprudence and Legal Theory


    All essential concepts, principles, and case law are included so that you can answer exam questions quickly.