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Comité Français de l’Arbitrage




For any aficionado of international law and international arbitration, the 1872 Alabama case represents a rich historical landmark, as promising a mine as the wreck of the Confederate Ship Alabama itself, sunk off Cherbourg, in 1864, by the United States Ship Kearsarge. This arbitration represents a turning point in relations between the United States and Great Britain, from repeated conflict to a “Special Relationship” that has grown stronger during the past century and a half. The case also marked the revival of international arbitration, after centuries of uncertainty. Not least, the case introduced long-lasting procedural innovations: the neutral collegial tribunal, complex nuances in the timing and extent of arbitrators’ power to determine their own jurisdiction, the admission of dissenting opinions, the principle of procedural proportionality. Innovations in substantive law included a new appreciation for the delicate interaction of international law and national law, and the concept of “due diligence” now at the core of the State responsibility under international law, particularly for environmental matters.

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