You are on page 1of 3

Corfu Channel Case (UK v.

Based on the argument that the state (ie.Luka) knowingly allowed the use of its territory to the
detriment of other states.

On May 15th. 1946 the British warships passed through the Channel without the approval
of the Albanian government and were shot at.
Later, on October 22nd, 1946, a squadron of British warships (two cruisers and two
destroyers), left the port of Corfu and proceeded northward through a channel previously swept
for mines in the North Corfu Strait.
Both destroyers were struck by mine and were heavily damaged. This incident resulted
also in many deaths. The two ships were mined in Albanian territorial waters in a previously
swept and check-swept channel.
After the explosions of October 22nd, the United Kingdom Government sent a note to the
Albanian Government, in which it announced its intention to sweep the Corfu Channel shortly.
The Albanian reply, which was received in London on October 31st, stated that the Albanian
Government would not give its consent to this unless the operation in question took place outside
Albanian territorial waters.
Meanwhile, at the United Kingdom Government's request, the International Central Mine
Clearance Board decided, in a resolution of November 1st, 1946, that there should be a further
sweep of the Channel, subject to Albania's consent. The United Kingdom Government having
informed the Albanian Government, in a communication of November 10th, that the proposed
sweep would take place on November 12th, the Albanian Government replied on the 11th,
protesting against this 'unilateral decision of His Majesty's Government'.
It said it did not consider it inconvenient that the British fleet should undertake the
sweeping of the channel of navigation, but added that, before sweeping was carried out, it
considered it indispensable to decide what area of the sea should be deemed to constitute this
channel, and proposed the establishment of a Mixed Commission for the purpose.

ICJ Ruled:
The Court held that Albania was responsible for the October 1946 explosion in Albanian
waters, and for the damage and loss of human life that resulted. A decision regarding the amount
of compensation was reserved for further consideration. International decisions recognized
circumstantial evidence, and such evidence in this case indicated that the laying of the minefield
which caused the explosions in October 1946 could not have been accomplished without the
knowledge of the Albanian government.
Albania had the responsibility to warn British warships of the danger the minefields
exposed them to. This responsibility flowed from well-recognized principles of humanity which
were even more exacting in time of peace than in war, from the principle of freedom of maritime
communication, and from the obligation of all states not to knowingly allow their territory to be
The Court decided that the United Kingdom did not violate the sovereignty of Albania when it
passed through Albanian waters in October 1946. In times of peace, states had the right to send
their warships through straits used for international navigation between two parts of the high seas
without the previous authorization of a coastal state, provided the passage was innocent.

The United Kingdom also argued that, whoever might be the authors of the mine-laying, it
could not have been effected without Albania's knowledge. True, the mere fact that mines
were laid in Albanian waters neither involves prima facie responsibility nor does it shift the
burden of proof. On the other hand, the exclusive control exercised by a State within its frontiers
may make it impossible to furnish direct proof of facts which would involve its responsibility in
case of a violation of international law.
The State which is the victim must, in that ease, be allowed a more liberal recourse to inferences
of fact and circumstantial evidence; such indirect evidence must be regarded as of especial weight
when based on a series of facts, linked together and leading logically to a single conclusion.
>>>>>In the present case both evidence of the Albanian Governments attitude (its intention to
keep a close watch on its territorial waters, its protest against the passage of the British fleet but
not the laying of mines, its failure to notify shipping of the existence of mines) and the fact that
mine-laying would have been visible to a normal lookout on the Albanian coast, lead the Court
to conclude that the laying of the minefield could not have been accomplished without the
knowledge of Albania. The Court then considers Albanias obligations in light of this
The obligations resulting for Albania from this knowledge are not
disputed between the Parties. Counsel for the Albanian Government
expressly recognized that [translation] if Albania had been informed of
the operation before the incidents of October 22nd, and in time to warn
the British vessels and shipping in general of the existence of mines in
the Corfu Channel, her responsibility would be involved.. . .".
The obligations incumbent upon the Albanian authorities consisted in
notifying, for the benefit of shipping in general, the existence of a
minefield in Albanian territorial waters and in warning the approaching
British warships of the imminent danger to which the minefield
exposed them. Such obligations are based, not on the Hague
Convention of 1907, No. VTII, which is applicable in time of war, but on
certain general and well-recognized principles, namely: elementary
considerations of humanity, even more exacting in peace than in war ;
the principle of the freedom of maritime communication ; and every
State's obligation not to allow knowingly its territory to be used for acts
contrary to the rights of other States.
In fact, Albania neither notified the existence of the minefield, nor
warned the British warships of the danger they were approaching.
The laying of the mines took place in a period in which it had shown its intention to keep a
jealous watch on its territorial waters and in which it was requiring prior authorization before they
were entered, this vigilance sometimes going so far as to involve the use of force: all of which
render the assertion of ignorance a priori improbable. Moreover, when the Albanian Government
had become fully aware of the existence of a minefield, it protested strongly against the activity
of the British Fleet, but not against the laying of the mines, though this act, if effected without her
consent, would have been a very serious violation of her sovereignty; she did not notify shipping
of the existence of the minefield, as would be required by international law; and she did not
undertake any of the measures of judicial investigation which would seem to be incumbent on her
in such a case. Such an attitude could only be explained if the Albanian Government, while
knowing of the mine laying, desired the circumstances in which it was effected to remain secret.
(The Court goes on to consider whether Albania would have had sufficient
time to notify shipping of the existence of mines, and finds that, even if the
mines had been laid at the last possible moment, in the night of October 21 st22nd, the Albanian authorities could still have warned ships approaching the
danger zone. There was an interval of two hours between when the British
ships were reported by a look-out post and the time of the first explosion. No
warning was given, and the Court held that the omission involve international

responsibility for the explosions, and the damage and loss of human life to
which they gave rise.)