Corfu Channel Incident - International Law

International Law

The International Court of Justice ruling in the case established a precedent regarding whether a violation of territorial sovereignty is justified intervention. The United Kingdom claimed it was justified in entering Albanian territorial waters on 12 November and 13 November 1946 to secure evidence needed to support its case. The ICJ responded,

“The Court cannot accept such a line of defence. The Court can only regard the alleged right of intervention as the mani-festation of a policy of force, such as has, in the past, given rise to most serious abuses and such as cannot, whatever be the present defects in international organization, find a place in international law. Intervention is perhaps still less admissible in the particular form it would take here; for, from the nature of things, it would be reserved for the most powerful States, and might easily lead to perverting the administration of inter-national justice itself.
The United Kingdom Agent, in his speech in reply, has further classified "Operation Retail" among methods of self-protection or self-help. The Court cannot accept this defence either. Between independent States, respect for territorial sovereignty is an essential foundation of international relations. The Court recognizes that the Albanian Government's complete failure to carry out its duties after the explosions, and the dilatory nature of its diplomatic notes, are extenuating circumstances for the action of the United Kingdom Government. But to ensure respect for international law, of which it is the organ, the Court must declare that the action of the British Navy constituted a violation of Albanian sovereignty.”

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