National University of Singapore
The common law Act of State doctrine remains notoriously indeterminate. Even the nature and scope of one of its more well-defined sub-rules, the Foreign Act of State doctrine (the “Doctrine”), remains highly contested: in Belhaj v Straw, the UK Supreme Court remained divided on every aspect of the Doctrine, agreeing only that it would preclude challenges to the validity of certain foreign laws or executive acts.
This article forwards a clear justification for the Doctrine, from which its proper purpose, scope of application and exceptions can be determined. It builds on a justification hinted at by the majority in Belhaj: the Doctrine is a “general principle of private international law”, concerned with upholding private justice in disputes involving the application of foreign law.