Bases of International Law: Mutuality, Reciprocity, Comity

Mutuality, reciprocity, and comity as bases or elements. — International Law is founded largely upon mutuality, reciprocity, and the principle of comity of nations. Comity, in this connection, is neither a matter of absolute obligation on the one hand, nor of mere courtesy and good will on the other; it is the recognition which one nation allows within its territory to the acts of foreign governments and tribunals, having due regard both to the international duty and convenience and the rights of its own citizens or of other persons who are under the protection of its laws. The fact of reciprocity does not necessarily influence the application of the doctrine of comity, although it may do so and has been given consideration in some instances. (30 Am. Jur., 178; Hilton vs. Guyot, 159 U. S., 113, 40 Law. ed., 95; 16 S. Ct., 139.)

In Hilton vs. Guyot (supra), the highest court of the United States said that comity "is the recognition which one nation allows within its territory to the legislative, executive, or judicial acts of another nation, having due regard both to International duty and convenience, and to the rights of its own citizens or of other persons who are under the protection of its laws. " Again, in Bank of Augusta vs. Earle, 38 U.S., 13 Pet. 519, 589, Chief Justice Taney, speaking for the court while Mr. Justice Story — well-known author of the treatise on Conflict of Laws — was a member of it, and largely adopting his words, said:

. . . It is needless to enumerate here the instances in which by the general practice of civilized countries, the laws of the one will, by the comity of nations, be recognized and executed in another, where the rights of individuals are concerned . . . The comity thus extended to other nations is no impeachment of sovereignty. It is the voluntary act of the nation by which it is offered, and is inadmissible when contrary to its policy, or prejudicial to its interest. But it contributes so largely to promote justice between individuals, and to produce a friendly intercourse between the sovereignties to which they belong, that courts, but the comity of the nation, which is administered and ascertained in the same way, and guided by the same reasoning, by which all other principles of municipal law are ascertained and guided. (G.R. No. L-2529; December 31, 1949)

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