By Davy Karkason
Founding Attorney

The International Law Commission (ILC) is an independent body of international law experts that works to promote the progressive development and codification of international law that can be considered customary international law. In 2001, the ILC published a set of Articles on State Responsibility (ASR) which lays out legal rules governing responsibility for internationally wrongful acts committed by states and other international organizations. Here, we are going to explore he International Law Commission’s Articles on State Responsibility and how the application of the rules of Attribution. See International Law Commission (

What is Attribution?

The rules of Attribution are used to determine which state or international organization should be held responsible for an internationally wrongful act. These rules specify that any act carried out by an organ or agent of a state will be attributed to that state if it was either acting within its competence or purporting to act on behalf of the state. This means that any action taken by a government official, even if unauthorized, may be attributed to their home nation. Tribunals don’t tend to define the rules of Attribution and thus, tribunals have to refer themselves to the ILC articles.

International Organizations such as the United Nations can also be held responsible under certain circumstances. For example, if an organization fails to fulfill its mandate or breaches its obligations under international law, then it may be attributed with responsibility for those actions. Thus, if you are looking into who is legally responsible for an internationally wrongful act, then you need to consider both states and international organizations as potential culprits. See Understanding State Responsibility in International Arbitration – Transnational Matters

The Role of ASR

The International Law Commission’s Articles on State Responsibility provide further guidance on how attribution should work in practice. Article 2 specifically sets out when a state will be held accountable for wrongful acts committed by its organs or agents, while Article 3 covers situations where a state has failed in its obligations towards another state or group of states. Additionally, ASR provides examples of what constitutes an internationally wrongful act and outlines general principles for assigning responsibility such as causation and intent. All this helps us better understand exactly who can be held responsible when an internationally wrongful act occurs and why they should bear responsibility for it.


Attributing responsibility when an internationally wrongful act occurs is not always straightforward but there are rules and guidelines in place to help us determine who should bear accountability in each case. The International Law Commission’s Articles on State Responsibility provide important insight into this process by outlining both general principles and specific scenarios where a state or international organization could be found liable under international law. Understanding these articles is essential for anyone looking at attributing responsibility when wrongdoings occur between nations or between nations and organizations like the United Nations.

About the Author
As a lawyer and the founder of Transnational Matters, Davy Aaron Karkason represents numerous international companies and a wide variety of industries in Florida, the U.S., and abroad. He is dedicated to fighting against unjust expropriation and unfair treatment of any individual or entity involved in an international matter. Mr. Karason received his B.A. in Political Science & International Relations with a Minor in Criminal Justice from Nova Southeastern University. If you have any questions about this article you can contact Davy Karkason through our contact page.