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The Corfu

Channel Case
United Kingdom vs. Albania
Facts:
 May 15, 1946 – an Albanian battery fired in the direction of
two (2) British cruisers that were navigating through the
Corfu Channel. Although, the ship did not suffer any damages,
the British Gov’t protested, that it can make innocent passage
through straits without the need to make any announcement
or await permission;

 October 22, 1946 –British squadron of British warships


entered the North Corfu Channel, wherein, two (2) of its ships
(Suamarez and Volage) struck mines & were heavily
damaged, causing deaths and injuries among naval personnel;
 November 12 and 13, 1946 – British minesweepers
swept the North Corfu Channel, after having
announced the operation in advance. The Albanian
Gov’t, however, denied it’s consent;

 May, 22, 1947 – UK & Northern Island instituted


proceedings of the Corfu Channel Case against the
Gov’t of the People’s Republic of Albania;

 Mach 25, 1948 – the UK and Albania entered into a


Special Agreement.
 May 26, 1948 – submission of the case before the ICJ;

 April 9, 1949 – ICJ judgement as to the main issues;

 December 15, 1949 – ICJ judgment as to the


assessment of the compensation for damages.
Main Issues:

1. As to right of passage of warships in times of


peace through straits connecting two parts of
high seas or right of innocent passage. Whether
the United Kingdom have violated the sovereignty
of Albania when its 2 warship had passed through
the Corfu Channel without asking permission from
Albanian Government on 22nd of October 1946.
2. As to the minesweeping undertaken in
territorial waters contrary to wish of territorial
State. Whether the minesweeping operation by
the British Government in Albanian waters had
violated the sovereignty of Albania.
Questions before the ICJ
 Whether the Albania was
responsible under the international
law for the explosions that
occurred on 22nd of October 1946 in  Whether the minesweeping
Albanian waters, for the resulting operation by the British Gov’t in
damage & loss of human life and Albanian waters had violated
for payment of any compensation; the sovereignty of Albania; and

 Whether the U.K had violated the  If the Court found that it had
sovereignty of Albania under jurisdiction to do so, to asses
international law by reason of acts the amount of compensation.
of Royal Navy in Albanian waters on
22 October & 12 & 13 of November
1946 & if there is any duty to give
satisfaction;
Main Issue No. 1:

NO, the UK did not violate the


sovereignty of Albania when its 2 warship had
passed through the Corfu Channel without
asking permission from Albanian Government
on 22nd of October 1946. It was an innocent
passage.
Contention of:
Albania UK
 That, foreign warships &
merchant vessels had no right to  That, it is an exercise of
pass through Albanian territorial right to innocent passage,
waters, without prior notification because passage through
to, & permission of Albanian Straits was a right
authorities; recognized under the
international law;
 That, the passage of British
warship was not innocent - said
passage was a political mission &
showed intention to intimidate &
not merely to carry out a passage
for navigation.
Court’s Ruling:
 Yes, it is an innocent passage & Albania was responsible
for the damage and loss of human life (Q.1 & 2);
 Grounds:
presumed knowledge of Albanian government
entailed its obligation to notify foreign vessels sailing
through the straits of the presence of mines.
1. Elementary consideration of humanity;
2. Principle of freedom of maritime communication; and
3. States obligation not to allow knowingly its territory to
be used for acts contrary to the rights of other States.
Main Issue No. 2:

YES, the minesweeping operation


by the British Government in Albanian
waters had violated the sovereignty of
Albania.
Contention of:
Albania UK
 That, the UK were not  That, the operation was one
entitled to sweep mines in of extreme urgency;
Albanian territorial waters
without previous consent;
 That, the operation were
among the methods of self-
 That, it made use of an protection or self-help, and
unnecessarily large display of right of intervention.
force, out of proportion to
the requirements of the
sweeps.
Court’s Ruling:
 The Court does not consider that the action of the UK was a
demonstration of force for the purpose of exercising political
pressure on Albania;
 The Court was unable to accept the notion of self-help, since
the respect for territorial sovereignty was between
independent States is an essential foundation of international
relations;
 The “right of intervention” mentioned by the UK is regarded by
the Court as a manifestation of a policy of force and therefore
inadmissible because it would be reserved for the most
powerful States.
Hence, the action of the UK constituted a violation of
Albanian sovereignty.
1. 11-5 Votes
The People’s Republic of Albania is responsible under
international law for the explosions occurred on Oct. 22, 1946;

2. 10-6 Votes
Reserves for further consideration the assessment of the
amount of compensation;

3. 14-2 Votes
UK did not violate the sovereignty of Albania by the acts of the
former in Albanian water on Oct. 22, 1946;
4. Unanimously, gives judgment that the UK violated the
sovereignty of Albania as to the Operation Retail occurred on
November 13 and 12, 1946.