Opinion Number. 323

Subject

INTERNATIONAL RESPONSIBILITY WHETHER COUNTRY IS RESPONSIBLE FOR SAFETY OF FOREIGN SUBJECTS WITHIN ITS BORDERS

Date
Client
The Minister for External Affairs

The Minister for External Affairs asks to be advised whether in international law there is any ground for a claim against the French Government in this case.(1)

In my opinion, there is a prima facie case for a claim, though it is difficult, without any knowledge of the facts which would be submitted on behalf of the French Government, to advise as to the probability of a claim being successfully prosecuted. Prima facie, a country is responsible for the safety of subjects of foreign states within its borders as it is for its own subjects; but it may escape responsibility if it can show that the injury was one which it could not reasonably have been expected to have knowledge of and to prevent, and that it has done all in its power to find and punish the offenders.

A strong point in favour of the claim is the fact of the apparent complicity of village chiefs and of a large number of villagers.

[Vol. 7, p. 5]

(1) The murder of a Mr G. R. Fearby in Tonkin, Indochina.