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State responsibility Mistreatment of foreign nationals

Jean-Baptiste Caire Claim 5 RIAA 516 (1929) (French - Mexican Claims Commission)
A state may be held internationally responsible for the unauthorised acts of state officials, such as the unlawful killing of a foreign national by an army or police officer, where those officials purported to act in an official capacity and used the means placed at their disposition by virtue of that capacity. On 11 December 1914, M Jean-Baptiste Caire, a French national, was unlawfully shot and killed at an army barracks in Mexico by two Mexican army officers, a major and a captain aided by a few privates, after M Caire refused a demand by one of the officers to pay a sum of money. In awarding an indemnity in the sum of 20,000 Mexican gold piastres in favour of M Caires widow, the French-Mexican Claims Commission held that Mexico was internationally responsible for the conduct of the army officers. In this regard, Presiding Commissioner Verzijl observed that, under the doctrine of objective responsibility (state responsibility for the acts of state officials or state organs even in the absence of fault on the part of the state), a state is internationally responsible for acts committed by its officials or organs outside their competence if the officials or organs acted at least to all appearances as competent officials or organs, or used powers or methods appropriate to their official capacity . Applying this principle to the facts of the present case, Presiding Commissioner Verzijl concluded as follows:
The officers in question consistently conducted themselves as officers ; in this capacity they began by exacting the remittance of certain sums of money; they continued by having the victim taken to a barracks of the occupying troops; and it was clearly because of the refusal of M Caire to meet their repeated demands that they finally shot him. Under these circumstances, there remains no doubt that, even if they are to be regarded as having acted outside their competence, which is by no means certain, and even if their superior officers issued a counter-order, these two officers have involved the responsibility of the State, in view of the fact that they acted in their capacity of officers and used the means placed at their disposition by virtue of that capacity.

Indemnity awarded
A comparison with vicarious liability in municipal law In Jean-Baptiste Caire Claim (above), the unlawful conduct of the army officers who killed M Caire was imputed or attributed to Mexico for the purposes of state responsibility. An analogy in municipal law is the vicarious liability in tort of an employer for the conduct of an employee in the course of employment. In the latter context, provided that there is a sufficient connection between the employees conduct and the course of employment, an employer may be held vicariously liable in tort for the criminal act of an employee, such as the sexual assault of resident children committed by the warden of a boarding school ( Lister v. Hesley Hall Ltd [2002] 1 AC 215). The reasoning in Caire may be compared with the decision of the Privy Council (on appeal from the Court of Appeal of Jamaica) in Bernard v. Attorney General of Jamaica [2004] UKPC 47. In this case, a police officer purporting to act in that capacity, unlawfully shot Mr Clinton Bernard in the head at point-blank range when Mr Bernard refused to comply with the police officer s demand that the police officer be given the use of a public telephone before Mr Bernard had completed the call he was making. In a judgment delivered by Lord Steyn, the Privy Council held that the Crown, as the police officers employer, was vicariousl y liable in tort for the police officers unlawful, and almost certainly criminal, conduct. In this regard, the Privy Council emphasised that, although the police officer was off-duty at the time of the incident, the police officer had purported to act in an official capacity and had used the service revolver which off-duty police officers routinely were permitted to carry. Adapting the language of Presiding Commissioner Verzijl in Caire, the police officer in Bernard engaged the vicarious liability of the Crown in view of the fact that he had purported to act in his capacity as a police officer and had used the means placed at his disposition by virtue of that capacity. __________________________________