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State responsibility for international law violations involving non-state actors in armed conflict

Maddocks, J. H. (2022) State responsibility for international law violations involving non-state actors in armed conflict. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00107450


Contemporary conflict is replete with examples of states acting through private partners or proxies to pursue their foreign policy and security goals. Frequently, however, non-state actors (NSA) in receipt of state support act in a manner that potentially violates international law. This thesis considers states’ international responsibility for such breaches, examining the circumstances in which the law of state responsibility attributes an NSA’s conduct to a state. The principal objectives of the study are threefold: to clarify the precise circumstances in which private conduct is attributable to a state in contemporary conflict; to evaluate the sufficiency of the rules of attribution; and to assess how any inadequacies in the regulation of states’ support to NSAs in conflict situations should be remedied. Having examined the law’s practical impact, using three contemporary conflicts as case studies, the thesis argues that there is a gap in accountability that allows states to act via proxy in a manner that they could not lawfully act via their own organs. While this lacuna is partially filled by primary norms of international law, these are fragmented and incomplete in their effects. To properly regulate states’ dealings with NSAs in armed conflict, therefore, international law must evolve. First, a less stringent interpretation of the rules of attribution is necessary, to better meet the object and purpose of the law of state responsibility in light of the realities of states’ contemporary interactions with NSAs. Second, international law must hold states to account for their own actions in facilitating NSA conduct that would be internationally wrongful if perpetrated directly by the state. This can be addressed not only via the law of state responsibility but also by strengthening relevant primary norms of international law.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Schmitt, M. and Hill-Cawthorne, L.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Law
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Law
ID Code:107450
Date on Title Page:2021


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