The Controversial Issue of State Succession to International Responsibility in Light of Recent State Practice
German Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 49, pp. 413-448, 2006
40 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2008
Date Written: October 29, 2008
This paper addresses the issue of succession of States to international responsibility. In other words, does the successor State takes over obligations arising from internationally wrongful act committed by the predecessor State against a third State before the date of succession? The traditional answer given by scholars is that there is no transfer of responsibility from one State to another.
This paper critically assesses the arguments used in doctrine in support of this position. The first argument is that as a State is not responsible for acts committed by other States, only the State which has actually committed an internationally wrongful act should be held responsible for it. The second argument relates to the "personal character" of an internationally wrongful act which would not enable its transfer from one State to another: action personalis moritur cum persona.
The present article focuses on recent State practice of the 1990s. This paper examines several examples of State practice in the context of the integration of the German Democratic Republic in the Federal Republic of Germany, the dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the break-up of the U.S.S.R., the independence of Namibia and also the ICJ Gabc"ikovo Nagymaros Project Case in the context of the dissolution of Czechoslovakia.
This practice clearly shows that the strict and automatic principle of non-succession is not representative of contemporary international law. In fact, not a single recent example was found where the successor State refused to be held responsible for pre-succession obligations. However, the analysis of State practice does not show the existence of any general obligation for the successor State to succeed to the predecessor State's international responsibility.
Keywords: State succession, State responsibility, State practice, continuity, Germany, Yugoslavia, U.S.S.R., Czechoslovakia, Namibia
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