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Establishing State Responsibility for Historical Injustices: The Armenian Case

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The article aims to identify a legal structure for the determination of state responsibility for historical injustices by using the deportations and mass killings of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire (1915-1916) as a case study. It first determines whether the conduct was unlawful at the time it was committed and concludes that the 1948 Genocide Convention cannot be applied retroactively to the events in question and that customary international law provided, at the time, that the treatment by a state of its subjects was within its domestic jurisdiction. The Ottoman Empire, however, breached a series of treaties that provided for the amelioration of the conditions and for the protection of Christian minorities in the empire. The article then discusses whether the conduct was attributable to the state under the law of state responsibility in force at the time of the commissi delicti and argues that while the conduct of the Ottoman ministers, local authorities, and the military can be attributed to the Ottoman Empire, the attribution of the actions of other entities and individuals involved in the killings is more problematic.

Affiliations: 1: Reader in International Law, University of Westminster School of Law, London, UK


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