International - Maritime Traffic, Minefields, Sovereignty
THE CORFU CHANNEL CASE (MERITS)
In May 1946 British warships passed through the Corfu Channel, in Albanian territorial waters, and were fired upon by Albanian coastal batteries. In October 1946, when two British warships passed through the Corfu Channel the ships struck mines and were damaged. In November 1946 the British Royal Navy swept for mines in the Corfu Channel in Albanian waters without Albanian consent.
Geneva Convention on the Territorial Sea. 1958. Art. 14. 516 U.N.T.S. 205.
Albania is responsible for the October 1946 explosion in Albanian waters, and for the damage and loss of human life that resulted. A decision regarding the amount of compensation is reserved for further consideration. International decisions recognise circumstantial evidence, and such evidence in this case indicates that the laying of the minefield which caused the explosions in October 1946 could not have been accomplished without the knowledge of the Albanian government. Albania had the responsibility to warn British warships of the danger the minefields exposed them to. This responsibility flowed from well-recognized principles of humanity which are even more exacting in time of peace than in war, from the principle of freedom of maritime communication, and from the obligation of all states not to knowingly allow their territory to be used contrary to the rights of other states.
The United Kingdom did not violate the sovereignty of Albania when it passed through Albanian waters in October 1946. In times of peace, states have the right to send their warships through straits used for international navigation between two parts of the high seas without the previous authorization of a coastal state, provided the passage is innocent.
However, when the Royal Navy swept for mines in November 1946, it violated the sovereignty of Albania. This operation did not have the consent of international mine clearance organisations, could not be justified as the exercise of a right of innocent passage, and international law does not allow a state to assemble a large number of warships in the territorial waters of another state and to carry out mine-sweeping in those waters. The United Kingdom's arguments regarding intervention and self-protection are not persuasive.
U.S., ex rel. Amabile v. Italian Republic (1952) 14 R.I.A.A. 115
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