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Labianco, Riccardo (2022) Public International Law and the Responsibility of Arms-Exporting States. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Restricted to Repository staff only until 23 March 2025.


In today’s highly interconnected international community, it is not uncommon for arms exported from a country to end up being used in armed conflicts or violent actions abroad. Contemporary public international law is not indifferent to this indirect participation in violent action through the transferring of arms. Rules from different international regimes, ranging from disarmament law to international humanitarian and human rights law, regulate international arms transfers. These rules do not only define the transfers of arms that lead to wrongful acts by the recipient state as wrongful; but they also provide a special responsibility of the arms-exporting state when engaged with those wrongful transfers. If transferring arms is seen as starting from the preliminary negotiations and continuing throughout the collaboration between the exporting and recipient states after the shipment, arms-exporting state responsibility consists of four elements. First, international rules and practice recognise the connection of the arms-exporting state with recipient state’s wrongful conduct involving the transferred arms. Secondly, the arms-exporting state has a duty to appreciate the risk behind the transfer of arms. Thirdly, the arms-exporting state is required to react to the identified risk, doing its best to prevent possible wrongful conduct. Fourthly, the arms-exporting state can be considered an accomplice of the recipient state if, despite its duties, it knowingly exports arms that are then used with a wrongful purpose. This dissertation analyses the various rules that frame the conduct of arms-exporting states, emphasising that responsibility for wrongful conduct involving weaponry does not only lie with the actor that eventually pulls the trigger. In an interconnected international community, the responsibility for wrongful acts involving exported arms is shared among all the actors in a position to predict and prevent those acts.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Matthew Craven
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 23 Mar 2022 17:16

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