State and Its Responsibility: A Disquisition

The International Law is generally based on two main things and they are State and Individual. The meaning of the word ‘state’ varies. But under International Law the word ‘state’ means Countries. Now, what is the meaning of the word “country”? In the world map there are separate parts with separate colors and those parts occupy a particular territory and those parts are known as “country” or “state” and those parts together make a world. This article aims to give a detailed denotation of the word state under International law. This article will also help the readers to get a brief idea about International law and why it is initiated. The documentation will deal with state jurisdictions. After a thorough research this article is drafted.


During the seventh International conference of the American states, on 23rd December 1933 a treaty was signed in Uruguay which is known as the Montevideo Convention. A perfect definition of State is not given in this Montevideo Convention but certain criteria are determined for statehood. And those criteria are: 

  • Population ( There is no minimum or maximum limit in population rate)
  • Territory
  • Government.

 Now there are various types of government in different states they are :

  1. De facto Government 
  2. De jure Government
  3. Military Government 
  4. Government in exile
  • Sovereign (Capacity to enter into an agreement with other states.) 

The Montevideo Convention treaty came into force on December 26, 1934. 

Now the question is why states are formed? To know this we need to know how and why International law was initiated. The raised question will be answered below. 

Historical Background of International Law 

There are basically two important kinds of law. One is the Domestic law which deals with the internal matters of a state and the other is the International law which deals with the matters related to various states or countries. 

The history or origin of International law mainly relies on its development. Modern International law can be said to have originated during the European Renaissance. But according to many historians International law was created by Roman Empires which was known as jus gentium (laws of the nation)  to maintain certain relations with the foreigners.  Also in the Ancient Middle East there was agreements made between states and the two most important agreements were:

  1. Agreement between the rulers of Lagash and Umma (2100 BCE)
  2. The treaty between the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II and the Hittites king  Hattusilis III (1258 BCE).

 The development of the law began during the 16-17th century when Hugo Grotius presented a comparative study on International Law in his book De Jure Belli Ac Pacis (On the Law of War and Peace). It is a book in Latin and it deals with the status of war among the countries and also with the relations between the countries. Now this book is considered to be the foundational work of International Law and Hugo Grotius is known as the father of International law. 

During the 19th-20th century the positivist theory influenced many international organizations to grow. The UN (United Nations) found an organization in 1945 to expand human rights facilities all around the world. International law became much more developed after the end of the Second World War, when many states became independent and got recognized as ‘States’. 

Responsibility of a State under International Law

State responsibility is one of the important parts of International law. In our country there are several laws which deal with wrongful acts or breach of certain duties of an individual and the consequences of such acts. In the same way International laws deal with the states but International laws don’t deal with the source of the obligation. And so the states should maintain certain responsibilities because International law deals with the obligations of any kind of treaty, customary international law or any judgment by the international court. 

The International law commission accomplished the ARSIWA (Articles on Responsibilities of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts) in August, 2001. These articles are drafted only to ensure proper rules and regulation a state should obey. 

 In every states there are corporate sectors and it is run by the agents, employers and employees and any allegations on the company is dealt with the employers and employees of that company, in the same way the state itself cannot perform any act itself, the state is an abstract entity and the acts of the state are performed by the organs and officials of that state. So, it is the responsibility of the state officials to maintain the rules and regulations. The meaning of the word organ is mentioned in Article 4 of the international state responsibility which says any person which has the status in accordance with the internal law of that state and the state have to consider any act performed by that organ whether that organ is an executive, legislative or judiciary or functioning as any other head of the state organization.

Responsibilities also depends on the treaties one state has signed and if the state infringes any of the word mentioned in the treaty which can cause harm to the other state the former state will be held liable. Right of a state and duty of a state these both are interrelated with each other.  A state is always responsible to protect the customary rules and regulation of International Law. Also if any state assists any other state to commit a wrongful act then that state will be held liable and also if the latter state commits that wrongful act with mere knowledge of the consequences of the act then that state will be held liable too. Several theories were also made to make a proper study on how a state becomes liable and the two most important theories are the “Risk Theory” and the “Fault Theory”.

 These theories presume the responsibilities of a particular state. The ‘Risk Theory” deals with the intention and negligence committed by the state or the organs of the state which makes a state liable and the “ Fault Theory” deals with whether that negligence caused any harm to any other state. There are two main categories of State responsibility and they are the direct responsibility and the indirect responsibility. Direct responsibility deals with the acts/omission of a state and indirect responsibility deals with the acts/omission of an individual residing in a particular state.     

If any wrongful act is committed internationally, the state will be responsible for that act and the state needs to compensate for that. There will be three ways a state can compensate and they are by restitution, by compensation and by satisfaction. And the state also needs to stop that wrongful act if it is ongoing. 

Case Studies

While discussing state responsibilities, it is important to discuss a few important and remarkable cases regarding state responsibility and international liability.

 The Chorzow Factory Case:

This case is regarding the agreement between Germany and Poland. In this case an international agreement was violated by Poland. Poland was supposed to compensate for the loss of the damages faced by the German companies. The court held that Poland is liable to breach the agreement made with Germany. The justice said: “It is a principle of International law and even a greater conception of law that any breach of an engagement involves an obligation to make reparation”. 

The Corfu Channel Case: 

 Two British warships were destroyed on October 22nd 1948 while passing through the channel in the North Corfu Strait which was formerly swept by the mines, were tremendously damaged and many deaths were caused due to this incident. And those ships were mined in Albanian Territorial waters. The British claimed that the Albanians were responsible to make everyone aware of the danger. And it was held that Albania is responsible for the damage. The court also held that even if Albania had no knowledge about the mine it would be liable because the damage occurred in the Albanian territory. Article 1 of the ARSIWA says:  “Every Internationally wrongful Act of a state entails the international responsibility of that state” 

The Danzig Railways Official Case:

Under the protection of the League of Nations there used to be a city named City of Danzig. The railways of that city were governed by Poland. But a dispute arose among the employers and employees regarding their salary and pensions. So the International court said that they had no jurisdiction on individual issues i.e. International court only deals with the disputes between two States. 

The S.S Lotus Case:

The S.S lotus was a French ship which collided with S.S Bozkurt which was a Turkish Vessel and due to this incident Turkey faced a huge damage. Now the question is whether Turkey had jurisdiction to trial the case against the French lieutenant, Monsieur Demons. The Court held that Turkey cannot trial the case as according to the rule of International law which prohibits criminal jurisdiction who commits any act/omission outside the state jurisdiction. 

These were some of the important cases on State responsibilities and jurisdiction of the International court. 


The International law was initiated only to maintain peace and control the actions of the state officials. The International law also helped to reduce wars and tried to solve issues among the countries in a peaceful manner. Many thousands of years before states were formed only to capture those. But now States are there only to serve the citizens a better way of living. States these days are providing public services and justice. Also the modern age taught the states how to control their finances and develop themselves. Many underdeveloped countries are now developing and many developing countries are turning into developed countries.   


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