Restrictive Principle of Sovereign Immunity Law and Legal Definition

Restrictive principle of sovereign immunity refers to a principle that the immunity of a foreign state in the courts of the U.S. is restricted to claims involving the foreign state's public acts and does not extend to suits based on its commercial or private conduct. Until the twentieth century, mutual respect for the independence, legal equality, and dignity of all nations was thought to entitle each nation to a broad immunity from the judicial process of other states. In 1952, the U.S. Department of State shifted from absolute immunity to restrictive immunity. Congress passed the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act in 1976 that provided foreign nations with immunity from the jurisdiction of U.S. federal and state courts in certain circumstances. This act prohibits sovereign immunity with regard to commercial activities of foreign states or their agencies or with regard to property taken by a foreign sovereign in violation of international law.