Chapter 3: Attribution
206 thus concerns this ‘attachment’ of a legal position from one individual to another subject: the legal fact that the action of one is considered to be the action of another. Hence, attribution can be defined as a legal operation through which acts or omissions of individuals performed on behalf of the State are considered legally to be acts and omissions of the latter, in view of a certain legal function (here the one of responsibility). Notice that attribution takes place in a legal order in the context of many different functions, e.g. for establishing responsibility (here the rules on attribution are most developed), for determining who has treaty-making power on behalf of a State,207 for determining whose practice and opinion can give rise to customary law,208 for defining whose action is relevant in the consolidation of a title to territory or acquisitive prescription,209 for deciding which acts are covered by immunities (acta jure imperii, attributed to the State for immunity purposes),210 for determining the reach of extraterritorial jurisdiction (‘effective control’ test),211 for deciding on the existence of an international armed conflict,212 etc. It is not said that all these standards of attribution must be substantively the same ones as those developed in the law of responsibility. In this monograph, we shall focus only on the attribution standards for the purposes of international responsibility. Finally, we may also notice an aspect of vocabulary. The terms ‘attribution’ and ‘imputation’ are used interchangeably in legal doctrine....
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