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Absolute Liability and Risk Theory (International Law)

The theory of ‘absolute liability’ establishes the liability of the State arising out of the performance of certain activities which are lawful but create serious risks. This approach is the objective responsibility concept which maintain that the liability of the state is strict. Once an unlawful act has taken place, which has caused injury and which has been committed by an agent of the state, that will be responsible in international law to the state suffering the damage irrespective of good or bad faith. In the Neer Claim in 1926, an American superintendent of a Mexican mine was shot. The USA, on behalf of his widow and daughter, claimed damages because of the lackadaisical manner in which the Mexican authorities pursued their investigations. The General Claims Commission dealing with the matter disallowed the claim applying the objective test.

In the Caire Claim, the french Mexican Claims Commission had to consider the case of a French citizen shot by Mexican soldiers for failing to supply them with 5,000 Mexican dollars. The presiding commissioner held that Mexico was responsible for the injury caused in accordance with the objective responsibility doctrine, that is ‘the responsibility for the acts of the officials or organs of a state, which may devolve upon it the absence of any “fault” of it own.

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