When lawyers talk about an entity as a legal person or as a subject of international law, it means that the subject has the capacity to enter into legal relations and to have legal rights and duties. Prior to the 19th century, states were the only legal persons in international law. At that period international law regarded individual in much the same way as domestic laws regard animals as non persons, with no legal personality. The position however has charged in the 20th century. Thence forth international organizations, individuals, and companies and non-governmental organizations have came to acquire some degree of international legal personality along with the obligations and duties that go with it.

States constitute the principal subjects of international law since international law is primarily concerned with the rights and duties of states, it is necessary to have a clear view of when a state is, at least for the purpose of international law. Even though the state is an abstract concept to which various definitions have been ascribed, the monte video convention of 1933 gave it the following characteristics. These represent the most widely accepted criteria of state hood in international law which states, as legal persons, must possess. These are
 1.        A defined territory
2.         A permanent populations
3.         A government
4.         Capacity to enter into independent relations with other states.
            The fourth qualification is what distinguishes a states from other entities- protectorate colonies and occupied territories- in the international system. States can sign treaties and can be held responsible for the outcome of such treaties. They also enjoy certain privileges which other entities do not enjoy. They are accorded certain rights and duties under international law. These rights include:
1.         The right to independence and independent action
2.         The right to territorial jurisdiction
3.         The right to equality with other states
4.         The right to defence against external aggression.
            The duties and obligations accompanying these rights include:
1.         Non intervention in the affaris of other states
2.         Not formenting trouble or inciting civil strife or wars in the territory of other states.
3.         Not resorting to war as an instrument of policy states are obliged to explore all other avenues available in setting disputes with others.
4.         Duty of carrying out in good faith obligations entered into under treaties with other states.

Sovereign rights of states:
1.         A state is supposed to service sovereignty within its own specific territory. States have power exclusively to control its own domestic affairs the was it sees its fit without outside influence. However, it is necessary to point out that sovereignty is not absolute. It is subject to and constrained by international law. A state that passes a law against a particular group, religion or ethnicity will be guilty of crime against humanity.
2.         States have right to admit or expel foreigners from its territory such expulsion however must not be arbitrary or dehumanizing.
3.         the privileges and immunities enjoyed by its diplomats outside are fully recognized and respected. This is done on the basis of reciprocity.
4.         states have side jurisdiction over crimes committed within her territory. If it is a cross-border crime, the state still has a role to play.

Corresponding duties to sovereign rights
1.         States has duty not to perform acts of sovereignty, conspiracy or aggression on the territory of another state.
2.         Duty to abstain from and prevent its agents and subjects from committing acts constituting a violation of another states independency or territorial supremacy.
3.         The duty of not interfering in the affairs of another state except when invited.
4.         States have duty to relate with others on the basis of reciprocity consent and mutual respect.


            The concept of international organization is not a new one although the practice of having a continuous or permanent international organization is a relating new advance in the conduct of international relations. International organization have existed since 1815 or even earlier but have gained much diplomatic prominence and political relevance since the end of the first world war. The idea that international organizations and corporations have international legal personality is a very recent one. International organizations are now recognized as entities having rights, interests duties and obligations in the international community.
            The term international organization is normally used to describe an organization set up on agreement between two or more states. It is different from “non governmental organizations” where governments may have little or no hand at all in their activities. Treaties setting up international organizations often provide, as article 104 of the UN charter does, that “the organization shall enjoy, in the territory of each of its members, such legal capacity as may be necessary for the exercise of its functions and the fulfillment of its purpose”.
            This means that the organization enjoy legal personality under the principal laws of its member states. It can own property, enter into contracts and engage in several activities and enterprises with in the territories of member states. When states creates an international organization, they set it up for specific purpose and such organizations are given regulated powers. For this season, legal personality must be treated as a relative concept and not an absolute one.
            The term international organizations tend to bring, quickly to mind, the united nations, however, there are many more organizations which could be grouped into general or universal, regional, subregional, continental technical or specialized types of international organizations. One common feature among international organizations is that their membership international organizations is that their membership consists of national governments. There are also called inter-governmental organizations, IGOS. Some of the most popular examples are the UN, common wealth, EU, OAS, AU, AL, WHO, IMF, IBRD, WB, etc.
            In recent decades, there has been a growing number of international organizations whose membership are not states. These are transnational organizations made up of private organizations and institutions instead of states. An individual or group of individuals may also create or form a non-governmental organization. Non governmental organizations are simply called NGOS- Examples of NGOS include the red cross, amnesty international, green piece, world wide fund for nature, wwf, world water council, medicines sans frontiers, MNCS, FIFA, ILO, etc. the list of NGOS is very long some are local national regional sub-regional or universal. During the course of the work, more elaborate attention would be paid to international organizations both IGOs and NGOS.
            Though international organizations are viewed as a modern phenomena in international relations its origin extend far back in history. The roots of international organizations lie, in part, in tehri universal concern for the improved conditions of humanity. This has been expressed in the writings of philosophers and states men in their attempt to create stable institutional and structures which could help improved human conditions.
            The first modern example of an organization based on these principals were the congress of Vienna (1814-1815) which gave birth to the concept of Europe. This 1899 and 1907 peace conferences held in the city of Hague, Netherlands. The 1907 conference was more comprehensive, with 44 nations in attendance. A third conference was scheduled for 1915 but the plan was aborted by the outbreak of the first world war. The concept of Europe and the Hague systems are a long tortuous journey from Westphalia (1648).
            At the end of the first world war, the league of nations was created as a peace organization with the basic elements of political, social and economic co-operation at the universal level. However despite the great hopes upon which the league was founded, its organizational inadequacies and other related problems could not withstand the traumatic instabilities and uphearals of the immediate post-war world. With the devastation of the great depression, American isolationist policy and the rise of militant fascism and Nazism in Europe, the noble ideals of the league were basied in the rubble of world war II.
            Immediately after the war, the UN was created, representing what could be best described as the most advanced mechanism in the developmental stages of universal concern for the human conditions like the league, the UN was established to maintain global peace and security. The organization however, has expanded its scope, becoming increasing involved socio-economic and political and humanitarian issues of our time. It may be in order to submit that the united nations and its predecessor represent the coming together of all the root systems of international organizations.


            The 20th century has seen a growing tendency to admit that individuals and companies have some degree of international personality although the subject has remained largely controversial. Soviet international lawyers admit that individuals can be held guilty of crimes against international law (eg. Crimes against the laws of war) but they are reluctant to accept that individuals and companies have any real rights under international law. Their fear is that such rights could undermine the powers of the state over their own nationals. This perception is common under authoritarian regimes where the state aims of holding a very tight rein over the lives of its citizens.
            In the western countries scholar and governments are usually more prepared to admit that individuals and companies have some degree of international legal personality although the status is usually seen as severely limited. Infact, the legal personality of individuals and companies is much more limited than that of international organizations. 
            Individuals and companies may have various rights under specific treaties, but they cannot imitate states or some international organizations in under taking some activities such as acquiring territory, appointing ambassadors or declaring war. Many rules of international law exist for the benefit of individuals and companies but that does not necessary mean that the rules create rights for individuals and companies any more than the municipal law prohibiting cruelty against animals confers rights on animals. The rule however may differ in some places. In the European union, individuals and companies can bring claims before the court of justice of the EU. Some treaties may provide for different means of enforcement. In some situations individuals and companies may take their complaints, not to an international tribunal, but to a political organ of an international organization. This organ will then investigate the complaint and take such action as it may consider necessary and feasible against the offending state of party.
            The controversy over whether the individual or companies could be subject of international law ahs been wide and varied. Other areas where individuals and companies could assume international personality is the area of crime. Such crimes include piracy, slavery, fraud, drug trafficking, international  prostitution, racketeering and other crimes that transcends national boundaries. While the private violates the law of the sea, the individual, as a slave, is denied his freedom.
            In the event of war and conflict, the war is prosecuted by individuals either as politicians, generals and commanders or as combatants. In prosecuting a war, the issue becomes whether an individuals can hold into abstract things, by hiding under the umbrella of state of perpetuate a crime. The regulation on how individuals conduct themselves in war and how to treat other individuals participating in the war makes the individuals a subject of international law. In prosecuting a war, individuals bear the weapons of war and take responsibility for what was done in the war, it is therefore probable that certain crimes could be committed by the individuals which would amount to a violation of international law vis avis the laws of war and aimed conflict. Such crimes may include.
1.         Crime against peace: these are policies, actions, decisions and utterances which could lead to aggression.
2.         Crime against humanity: these may involve genocide, ethnic cleansing, starvation as war strategy, torture, etc.
3.         Other actions which may constitute a violation of the laws of war.
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