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State responsibility

 State responsibility in International Law


When one state commits an international unjust conduct against another, it incurs state responsibility. For example, dictatorial non-intervention is prohibited under Article 2(4) of the UN Charter, which states that every State has a legal commitment not to use or threaten to use force against others. Non-intervention, on the other hand, is not limited to the avoidance of the use of force. Any type of forceful interference in a state's internal affairs would bring the state responsibility. As Oppenheim’s international law puts it, “the interference must be forcible or dictatorial, or otherwise coercive, in effect depriving the State intervened against of control over the matter in question. Interference pure and simple is not intervention”.

Nicaragua v. United States

A landmark case in this regard is Nicaragua v. United States; the case concerning military and paramilitary activities in and around Nicaragua. It involved the United States supporting rebellion groups against the Nicaraguan government. The Court found in its verdict that the United States was “in breach of its obligations under customary international law not to use force against another State” and “not to intervene in its affairs”.

United Kingdom v. Albania (The Corfu Channel Case)

A few British warships were seriously damaged by mine explosions on October 22, 1946, while travelling through the North Corfu strait within Albanian territorial waters. The majority of the crew members were murdered or seriously injured. Mines have previously been removed from Albanian waterways. Albania was charged by the United Kingdom in an application submitted on May 22, 1947, of laying or allowing a third state to plant mines after mine-clearing operations by Allied naval authority. The Court found that Albania was responsible under international law for the explosions that had taken place in Albanian waters and for the damage and loss of life which had ensued. Although it did not accept the view that Albania had itself laid the mines or granted permission to another entity, it held that the mines could not have been laid without the knowledge of the Albanian Government. Therefore, it was concluded that the Albanian government had authorized the laying of mines, and therefore was ordered to make reparation to the United Kingdom.

Basic and Nature of State Responsibility

There are three elements that are used to determine a state's responsibility. To begin, the State must have a legal obligation not to commit the conduct. Second, the act must be carried out by the state. Finally, the conduct must produce harm to another entity (loss or damage). If these conditions are met, the state is obligated to compensate the harmed parties.

A State, on the other hand, is only held accountable for the wrongdoings that constitute international delicts. It is unclear who is responsible for international crimes. The International Law Commission (ILC) distinguished between international delicts and international crimes in its 1996 draught on state liability. The issue of state liability in cases of international crimes has sparked considerable debate. While some argue that States' criminal liability has little legal value, others argue that States' attitudes toward international crimes have shifted dramatically since 1945, and that States could be held liable for such crimes. Apartheid, genocide, enslavement, colonial dominance, violence, and vast pollution of the atmosphere are examples of international crimes.


If a State breaches a treaty, and the breach causes injury to the other parties, it shall be bound to make good the losses. Reparation is the indispensable complement of a failure of a State to apply any of its obligations. If restitutio ad integrum is not possible, the accused party shall be liable to make compensation.


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