The Pitcairn Prosecutions: An Assessment of Their Historical Context by Reference to the Provisions of Public International Law
This chapter begins with an assessment of the basis or bases for the assertion of jurisdiction by the United Kingdom over Pitcairn Island as understood in public international law. It does so by a brief analysis of the concept of jurisdiction and how public international law constructs the idea of the assertion of jurisdiction by States. It reflects on the jurisdictional position of the United Kingdom in respect of Pitcairn Island from a historical as well as modern perspective, though this discussion all the while assumes that the United Kingdom does indeed have sovereign title over the territory (or territories) at issue. The chapter then addresses the question of territorial acquisition — of how public international law has provided over time for modes of acquisition of sovereign title, and through what process or processes title in respect of Pitcairn Island might have come to reside in ultimo in the United Kingdom. It is shown that sovereign title itself opens up the vexed matter of the legal obligations of States in respect of their territories and, the nature and extent of human rights obligations of States under public international law are considered. These themes are developed in the penultimate section of the chapter to contemplate how this experience might inform or shape notions of the concept of law itself, and what it tells us in general terms about the application of the law in anomalous or unusual spaces.
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