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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 7: Conclusion

Robert Kolb


of this study.

First, the law of international responsibility bears all the hallmarks of a technical matter engrafted upon a dense and fertile legal soil. There is no lack of precision and of subtle distinctions in its well-structured body. The legal mind here finds at once rank-and-file concepts but also multifaceted and complex notions. However, beneath that surface of legal versatility, the subject matter of responsibility is also a politically sensitive matter. Responsibility means the duty to respond for one’s own actions – and these are of a certain gravity when flowing from sovereign States. Responsibility means a duty to make reparations – and these can exact huge amounts, as post-war reparations graphically show. Responsibility means potentially being made the subject of countermeasures in a series of contexts not yet foreseeable – and that may be a subject of intense worry for States. It is therefore understandable that in view of this double legal and political complexity the ILC took roughly 50 years of reflection before issuing its ingeniously crafted Articles on State Responsibility for Internationally Wrongful Acts of 2001.

Second, the law of international responsibility has been considerably reshaped from its beginnings to its current state. From the old-fashioned letters of reprisal, passing through the law on the treatment of foreigners, and finally heading to a set of objective rules setting out the consequences of an IWA, the road has been long and not devoid of significant metamorphoses. The contribution of the ILC (notably R. Ago) to the...

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