Complicity and the Law of State Responsibility

The George Washington International Law Review, October 1, 2012 | Go to article overview
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Complicity and the Law of State Responsibility


Complicity and the Law of State Responsibility, by Helmut Philipp Aust. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Pp. 520. $125.00 (hardcover).

Complicity and the Law of State Responsibility discusses the responsibility of individual nations when they aid or abet other states in the commission of acts that are violations of international law. The book consists of eight chapters and a conclusion. The book first attempts to discuss the historical underpinnings of the law of complicity and then delves into the governing bodies of international law, providing examples of past situations that could lead to complicity.

The first chapter sets out a chapter-by-chapter roadmap of the remainder of the book. It describes several recent examples of situations which could involve complicity, including the Iraq War, actions the United States took during the recent war between Russia and Georgia, and a conflict in Sri Lanka in 2009. Next, the book briefly discusses Article 16 of the Articles on State Responsibility (ASR), one of the governing principles on complicity.

Chapter two begins with a discussion of the historic underpinnings of the law of complicity and bilateralism. The author introduces complicity through concepts of "just war" and the law of neutrality, focusing on the historical duties and obligations of states not involved in a war. The book then turns to a discussion of the U.N. Charter and its implications on the rule of neutrality in the modern era. Chapter two concludes with a discussion of public interest norms and the obligations of states to maintain the public order.

Chapter three focuses on the relationship between the three states involved in an issue of complicity: the complicit state, the harmed state, and the aggressor state. The chapter first attempts to discuss the role of international law in creating various relationships between states. Next, it focuses on the concept of "abuse of rights," and individual harm. The chapter concludes with a discussion of abuse of rights and international law, highlighting how such abuse impacts the complicity of third-party states.

Chapter four focuses on whether customary international law provides for an understanding of complicity. To do this, it first discusses the evolution of Article 16 of the ASR and moves into an evaluation of practice and the types of complicity. Next, the chapter provides numerous examples of different types of complicity, ranging from the role of other countries in the invasion of Iraq to the effect of various state laws on involvement in wars and other potential violations of international law.

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