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Refracting international law ideas through the prism of the common law: act of state is (almost) dead, long live act of state!

16 February 2018 @ 12:3014:00

Lecture: “Refracting international law ideas through the prism of the common law: act of state is (almost) dead, long live act of state!”, Sean Aughey  (Independent Barrister), Finley Library, Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, 16 February 2018, 12.30-14.00h


Lecture summary:

On 18 January 2017, the Supreme Court handed down two landmark judgments on the existence, scope and application of the “act of state” doctrines in English law. The first case, Belhaj and another v Straw and Others, Rahmatullah (No 1) v Ministry of Defence [2017] UKSC 3 concerned whether claims of complicity in unlawful detention and mistreatment overseas at the hands of foreign state officials are properly justiciable before the English courts. The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the Government’s appeals finding that, on the assumed facts, the doctrine of foreign act of state did not apply. The second case, Rahmatullah (No 2) v Ministry of Defence, Mohamed v Ministry of Defence [2017] UKSC 1 concerned the nature and content of the doctrine of Crown act of state in the context of claims relating to detention in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Supreme Court unanimously allowed the Ministry of Defence’s appeal, holding that insofar as the Respondents’ tort claims are based on acts of an inherently governmental nature in the conduct of foreign military operations by the Crown, these were Crown acts of state for which the Government cannot be liable in tort. Prior to this judgment, the doctrine was last applied in the 19th Century. To what extent, if at all, do these judgments reveal the rationale of these doctrines, the relationship between them and their future potential application, and the relationship between English law and international law more broadly?


Sean Aughey:

Sean Aughey is a barrister at 11KBW. He is ranked by the independent legal directories as leading junior counsel in public international law and international arbitration. Sean is regularly instructed in cases before international and domestic courts and tribunals raising complex issues of international law. His notable recent cases in the public domain include two cases before the ICJ, including Application of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Ukraine v. Russian Federation), Provisional Measures (counsel for Russia); Mohamed (Serdar) v. Ministry of Defence [2017] UKSC 1 (for HMG); Belhaj v. Straw [2017] UKSC 3 (sole junior for HMG), Al Jazeera v. Egypt, ICSID Case No. ARB/16/1 (for Al Jazeera); Kingdom of Lesotho v. Swissbourgh Diamond Mines HC/OS 492/2016, CA/CA 149/2017 (for Lesotho); and Minister of Justice v SALC (the South Africa ‘Al Bashir head of State immunity case’) (for Amnesty International as amicus). In 2017, he was appointed Junior Counsel the Crown (the Attorney General’s Public International Law C Panel). Sean teaches a course on Public International Law at Pepperdine University School of Law. His experience includes previous appointments as assistant legal adviser for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, a Visiting Scholar (EALS) at Harvard Law School, and a Bye Fellow and College Lecturer in Law at Downing College, Cambridge.


Speaker: Sean Aughey

Date: Friday, 16 February 2018

Time: 1pm with sandwiches from 12.30pm

Venue: Finley Library, Lauterpacht Centre, 5 Cranmer Rd, Cambridge


More Information here.


16 February 2018
12:30 – 14:00


Finley Library, Lauterpacht Centre for International Law
5 Cranmer Road Cambridge CB3 9BL United Kingdom