Nauru’s Prohibition on Transfers of Land to Non-Citizens

Earlier, I used the “cybernation of Wirtland” as a thought experiment for discussing how international law might treat the acquisition of territory for the deliberate purpose of obtaining sovereignty. Wirtland has ‘proposed’ to acquire territory, and therefore eventually achieve statehood, by entering into a deal with Nauru by which Wirtland would obtain sovereignty over Nauru’s strip minded lands.

Although Nauru would be entirely free to enter into such a deal, as the principle of permanent sovereignty requires that every State recognize “the inalienable right of all States freely to dispose of their natural wealth and resources in accordance with their national interests,” (GA Resolution 1803 (XVII), preambular para.5), there are many reasons to seriously doubt another entity could achieve statehood by acquiring them.

It turns out I was looking at the issue far too abstractly. While I still think it is an interesting question as to whether or not a country can, in a financial transaction, withdraw claims of sovereignty over a portion of its territory and grant them towards the establishment of an entirely new State with no prior existence, using Nauru as the hypothetical example is a nonstarter. Nauru is, in itself, an interesting test case for many of our notions of sovereignty, but it cannot be the basis of a new nation’s claim to territory — because Nauruan law prohibits the alienation of real property to non-Nauruan citizens.

I knew from the Case Concerning Certain Phosphate Lands in Nauru that phosphate mining in Nauru took place under a series of complex mandates, trusteeships, and leases, and I got curious about who exactly would have been said to be “sovereign” over Nauruan territory prior to Nauru’s independence in 1968.

While looking up stuff about that, though, I was surprise to see that under Nauruan law today, it is a criminal offense to sell land to a non-Nauruan citizen, and any such attempt to do so will result in a void transaction. The Lands Act 1976 of Nauru provides that:

(1) Transfer inter vivos of the freehold of any land in Nauru to any person other than a Nauruan persons prohibited, and any such transfer or purported transfer, or any agreement to execute any such transfer, shall be absolutely void and of no effect.

(2) Any person who transfers, or agrees attempts or purports to transfer, the freehold of any land in Nauru to any person other than a Nauruan person is guilty of an offence and is liable to imprisonment for six months.

So, looks like Wirtland needs to buy land from someone else.

-Susan

8 thoughts on “Nauru’s Prohibition on Transfers of Land to Non-Citizens

    • The statute would encompass all non-Nauruan persons — be they juridical or not, or a state or just an individual human.

      Nauru’s had a unique (and tragic) history with regards to abuse of land rights. Germany, the UK, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan have all been a part of the mismanagement at some point in time.

      The ’76 Act was a direct result of Nauru’s belief that other states had acted to harm Nauru by mining and shipping away its phosphate reserves, and so the act was intended to prohibit any foreign state or foreign private co. from further usurping Nauru’s natural resources.

  1. Competence is the asset we value the most. In Wirtland you can actually make the foreign policy, not just comment on it. Welcome. People like you can make Wirtland’s unique sovereignty plan come true.

    • *laughs* I’m flattered that my foreign policy acumen has finally been recognized! But may I suggest that you re-think your sales pitch? I seem to recall cults having similar calls to arms; that’s likely not an impression you want to be invoking.

  2. If anybody wants to change or re-think anything in Wirtland, he/she is welcome to come and do so. W-land should not be viewed as “foreign” entity, as long as everyone can become a part of it. Guess you need to adjust your perception.

    W-land is a 21 century thing 🙂

  3. I was wondering if you ever thought of changing the layout of your site?

    Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could a little more
    in the way of content so people could connect with it better.
    Youve got an awful lot of text for only having 1 or two
    pictures. Maybe you could space it out better?

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