State Responsibility for Breaches of Human Rights Law

AuthorMark Freeman, Gibran Van Ert
A. Nature and Scope of State
It is a basic principle of international law, if not of law itself, that wrong-
ful acts entail the responsibility of the wrongdoer.1The international law
of state responsibility is customary in origin but has been the subject of
an important codification project by the International Law Commission
since 1949. Recently the Commission adopted the final text of its Draft
Articles on Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts
2001 (Draft Articles).2Draft Articles article 2 provides that internation-
ally wrongful state conduct consists of an action or omission attributa-
ble to the state under international law and constituting a breach of an
international obligation of the state. State breaches of international
human rights obligations are, of course, among those breaches that will
entail the state’s responsibility.
chapter 12
1 “[I]t is a principle of international law, and even a general conception of law,
that any breach of an engagement involves an obligation to make reparation”:
Chorzów Factory (Germany v. Poland) (Merits) (1928), PCIJ Series A no. 17 at
29. The court also observed (at 47), “[R]eparation must, as far as possible, wipe
out all the consequences of the illegal act and re-establish the situation which
would, in all probability, have existed if that act had not been committed.”
2 UN doc. A/CN.4/L.602/Rev. 1 (2001). The Draft Articles are not binding and
must be used with care. However, many of their provisions are widely accepted
as declaratory of existing customary international law.

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