The immunities of States and international organisations

This database contains the original national contributions bringing together information on The immunities of States and international organisations

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Member State
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Reply to Parliament
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Database of the CAHDI "The immunities of States and international organisations" - contribution of Finland - Reply to Parliament of 19/11/1998

Reply of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland to a written question of a member of the Parliament


Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland

Nature of the document


Date of the document


Points of law

The written question concerned the following: how the status of wrecks of aircraft or ships is regulated by international law.

Specific provision(s) of the document

The written question put forward by a Member of Parliament concerned a Finnish wreck of fighter plane which was shut down during the Second World War and lies now in the territorial sea of the Russian Federation. It was questioned why Finland had not demanded the wreck to itself.

In his reply, the Minister for Foreign Affairs stated that international law made a distinction between acts of government and acts of a commercial nature, when examining the title to property belonging to a State. The leading principle has been that property which relates to acts of government enjoys immunity as an expression of the sovereignty of the flag state. During the war, the use of war equipment by the armed forces constitutes an act of government. However, in a state of war, the rules of armed conflict must also be taken into account. These rules create a system of regulation of their own, applicable in times of war. In the light of this, the wreck of the Finnish fighter would enjoy sovereign immunity.

In this connection, it is worth noting that, according to the 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, a wreck of a State-owned vessel which is over 100 years old does not enjoy sovereign immunity.

The Minister emphasized, however, that in the relations between Finland and Russia, the treaties in force between the countries (between Finland and the Soviet Union at first and later between Finland and Russia) are a primary concern to be taken into account when examining the status of the wreck. Thus, by virtue of the Peace Treaty of Paris 1947, the Minister concluded that claims concerning the wreck were not possible.


KK 1213/1998

Additional information (explanations, notes, etc.)