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Great Britain v Costa Rica, (1923) 1 RIAA 369


Government of Costa Rica was overthrown and the new government passed a law invalidating all Ks and made a new Constitution. When this government fell Great Britain sued Costa Rica for debts. Costa Rica's new government claims no responsibility for what the old government did.

Great Britain says that Tinoco (the head of the old government) was the government de facto and de jur – Cost Rica says Tinoco wasn’t a government in international law.

Tinoco contracted a lot of foreign debt while running Costa Rica, including with Great Britain.


Even an illegal government may bind a state to international obligations. International law looks to the State, not the gov entity w/in the state.
** Caveat: when government in power contrary to international law, not just domestic law, then doctrine of state continuity will not generally apply


Tinoco was a sovereign government. Even though some sates did not recognize it – that cannot outweigh the evidence disclosed that de facto it was a government.

The question is not if the government abides by a constitution but is: Has it established itself in such a way that all w/in the its influence recognize its control, and that there is no opposing force assuming to be a gov in its place

As long a it is the effective government of the state – it is the government of the state. Debts owed are not owed by the government of the day but between the state – the only legal entity that is relevant is the state.


Great Britain was able to sustain a claim against Costa Rica because the Ks were made with Costa Rica not Tinoco.

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