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The International Law of State Responsibility

Robert Kolb

This highly readable book examines the law of State responsibility, presenting it as a fundamental aspect of public international law. Covering the key aspects of the topic, it combines a clear overview with use of specific case studies in order to provide a deeper understanding.
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Chapter 6: Issues of collective and ancillary responsibility

Robert Kolb


There are certain limited aspects of plural responsibility (i.e. responsibility when more than one subject is engaged in the IWA) which fall to be discussed: (1) responsibility for collective unlawful conduct (especially the old-fashioned ‘complicity’); (2) responsibility for conduct of member States within an international organization; and (3) member State responsibility for conduct of an international organization. These are issues where the practice is overall scarcer than in the traditional areas of State intercourse. The individualistic environment in which international law is cast, jurisdictional hurdles when a claim has to be brought against more than one State, traditional bilateral diplomacy when responsibility claims are formulated and presented, the uncertainty and the state of flux of many legal concepts dealing with collective and ancillary responsibility, the basic legal principle of separate responsibility of each subject, and further motives, may to some extent explain this state of affairs.

The main principle in this subject area is that each State incurs responsibility for its own conduct. Article 47 ASR is cast in the dispositive mode, but it expresses the rule well: ‘Where several States are responsible for the same internationally wrongful act, the responsibility of each State may be invoked in relation to that act.’ § 2 adds: ‘2. Paragraph 1: (a) does not permit any injured State to recover, by way of compensation, more than the damage it has suffered; (b) is without prejudice to any right of recourse against the other responsible States.’706 The main consequence...

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