International Law Commission International Law Commission

Last update: August 3, 2015

Analytical Guide to the Work of the International Law Commission

Status of the diplomatic courier and the diplomatic bag not accompanied by the diplomatic courier

See also: Summary | Texts and Instruments

Mandate

Studies undertaken by the Secretariat and Reports of the Secretary-General

  • 29th session of the International Law Commission (1977)
    • Note by the Secretariat

Reports of the Working Group or Sub-Committee

  • 29th session of the International Law Commission (1977)
    • Proposals on the elaboration of a protocol concerning the status of the diplomatic courier and the diplomatic bag not accompanied by diplomatic courier (para. 4 of General Assembly resolution 31/76): Report of the Working Group
  • A/CN.4/305 (mimeograph. Conclusions of the Working Group reprinted in, ILC Report, A/32/10, 1977, chap. V(C), para. 83)
  • 30th session of the International Law Commission (1978)
    • Report of the Working Group on Status of the diplomatic courier and the diplomatic bag not accompanied by diplomatic courier
  • 31st session of the International Law Commission (1979)
    • Report of the Working Group on Status of the diplomatic courier and the diplomatic bag not accompanied by diplomatic courier (as amended)

Reports of the Special Rapporteur

  • The preliminary report sought to elicit advice and guidance from the Commission on topical issues of substance and method with a view to preparing subsequent reports dealing with draft articles.
    • Preliminary Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Alexander Yankov (32nd session of the ILC (1980))
  • The report contained the text of six proposed draft articles: "general provisions": "scope of the present articles" (article 1); "couriers and bags not within the scope of the present articles" (article 2);"use of terms" (article 3); "freedom of communication for all official purposes effected through diplomatic couriers and diplomatic bags" (article 4); "duty to respect international law and the laws and regulations of the receiving and the transit State" (article 5); and "non-discrimination and reciprocity" (article 6). The report also projected a comprehensive approach to the topic, discussed the definition of some terms and considered the general principles underlying some relevant multilateral conventions.
    • Second Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Alexander Yankov (33rd session of the ILC (1981))
  • The third report contained a revised version of the six draft articles proposed in the previous report, as well as eight new draft articles to be included in Part II: "Proof of status" (article 7); "Appointment of a diplomatic courier" (article 8); "Appointment of the same personality by two or more States as a diplomatic courier" (article 9); "Nationality of the diplomatic courier" (article 10); "Functions of the diplomatic courier" (article 11); "Commencement of the functions of the diplomatic courier" (article 12); "End of the functions of the diplomatic courier" (article 13); and "Persons declared non grata or not acceptable" (article 14).
    • Third Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Alexander Yankov (34th session of the ILC (1982))
  • Draft articles (arts.15–42): Status of the diplomatic courier; the diplomatic courier ad hoc; the captain of a commercial aircraft or the master of a ship carrying a diplomatic bag.
    • Fourth report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Alexander Yankov (35th session of the ILC (1983))
  • Intended as a linkage between what had been done so far and the work that lay ahead. Its purpose was to set out the present status of the draft articles and the stage that had been reached in considering each one and to indicate the main points which had arisen with regard to the draft articles during the discussion in the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly. Structure: introduction; present status of the draft articles; discussion of the topic in the Sixth Committee at the thirty-eighth session of the General Assembly; brief analytical survey of State practice relevant to the draft articles submitted to the Commission, consideration of the draft articles at the thirty-sixth session of the Commission.
    • Fifth Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Alexander Yankov (36th session of the ILC (1984))
  • Revised texts of draft articles 23 (immunity from jurisdiction), 36 (inviolability of the diplomatic bag), 39 (protective measures in circumstances preventing the delivery of the diplomatic bag) and 42 (relation of the present articles to other conventions and international agreements). Proposed text of new draft article 37 (exemption from customs inspection, customs duties and all dues and taxes) to replace former 37 and 38; and 43 (declaration of optional exceptions to applicability in regard to designated types of courier and bags). Draft articles 40 and 41 resubmitted in their original form.
    • Sixth Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Alexander Yankov (37th session of the ILC (1985))
  • Revised texts of and explorations concerning draft articles 36, 37, 41, 42 and 43, and text of and explanations concerning new draft article 39 (Protective measures in case of force majeure) — combining and replacing former draft articles 39 and 40.
    • Seventh Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Alexander Yankov (38th session of the ILC (1986))
  • Analyzed the written comments and observations received from Governments.
    • Eighth Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Alexander Yankov (40th session of the ILC (1988))

Reports of the Drafting Committee

  • 35th session of the International Law Commission (1983)
    • Texts adopted by the Drafting Committee: articles 1 to 8
  • 36th session of the International Law Commission (1984)
    • Texts adopted by the Drafting Committee: articles 10, 11, 13 to 17, 20, 21, 23 (paragraphs 2, 3 and 5), 24 and 25
  • 37th session of the International Law Commission (1985)
    • Text adopted by the Drafting Committee: articles 28 to 32, 34 and 35
  • Text adopted by the Drafting Committee: article 23
  • 38th session of the International Law Commission (1986)
    • Titles and texts adopted by the Drafting Committee: titles of the four parts of the draft; articles 28 to 33
  • 41st session of the International Law Commission (1989)
    • Titles and texts adopted by the Drafting Committee on second reading: articles 1 to 32 and draft Optional Protocols One and Two

Comments by Governments

  • 31st session of the International Law Commission (1979)
    • Comments of States
  • 34th session of the International Law Commission (1982)
    • Information received from Governments
  • 35th session of the International Law Commission (1983)
    • Information received from Governments
  • 36th session of the International Law Commission (1984)
    • Information received from Governments
  • 40th session of the International Law Commission (1988)
    • Comments and observations received from Governments
  • 41st session of the International Law Commission (1989)
    • Comments and observations received from Governments

Other

None

Reports of the International Law Commission

  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its twenty-ninth session, 9 May to 29 July 1977
    • Established a Working Group, and approved its conclusions concerning the ways and means of dealing with the topic.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 1425th meeting (23 May 1977), and 1462nd meeting (18 July 1977)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its thirtieth session, 8 May to 28 July 1978
    • The Commission re-established the Working Group, which adopted as its basic position that there had been considerable developments in various aspects of the question as reflected in the three multilateral conventions adopted subsequent to the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and that therefore the relevant provisions of those conventions, if any, should form the bases for any further study of the question.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 1527th meeting (27 July 1978)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its thirty-first session, 14 May to 3 August 1979
    • The Commission once again established a Working Group and then appointed Mr. Alexander Yankov as Special Rapporteur to prepare a set of draft articles.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 1546th meeting (6 June 1979) and 1580th meeting (31 July 1979)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its thirty-second session, 5 May to 25 July 1980
    • The Commission held a general debate to discuss the issues dealt with in the preliminary report prepared by the Special Rapporteur as well as on the topic as a whole.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 1634th meeting (16 July 1980), and 1636th and 1637th meetings (17 and 18 July 1980)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its thirty-third session, 4 May to 24 July 1981
    • The Commission had before it the second report of the Special Rapporteur containing the text of six draft articles. It discussed the definition of the terms "diplomatic courier" and "diplomatic bag" as well as other terms to be used for the draft articles on the basis of the travaux préparatoires of the relevant provisions of pertinent multilateral conventions. It also considered the general principles underlying those conventions which should also be incorporated in the draft. It referred articles 1 to 6 to the Drafting Committee.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 1691st (15 July 1981), 1693rd and 1694th meetings (17 and 20 July 1981)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its thirty-fourth session, 3 May to 23 July 1982
    • The Commission referred the 14 draft articles proposed by the Special Rapporteur to the Drafting Committee.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 1745th, 1746th and 1747th meetings (14 to 16 July 1982)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its thirty-fifth session, 3 May to 22 July 1983
    • Discussed the first two instalments of the Special Rapporteur's fourth report. The Commission was only able to consider draft article 15 to 23. It decided to refer draft articles 15 to 19 to the Drafting Committee and to resume its debate on draft articles 20 to 23 at its thirty-sixth session, in 1984, before referring them to the Drafting Committee. It furthermore provisionally adopted articles 1 to 8, with commentaries.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 1774th meeting (3 June 1983), 1780th, 1781st, 1782nd, 1783rd and 1784th meetings (13 to 17 June 1983), and 1799th meeting (7 July 1983), and 1806th and 1807th meetings (18 and 19 July 1983)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its thirty-sixth session, 7 May to 27 July 1984
    • The Commission had before it Addenda 1, to 4 of the fourth report of the Special Rapporteur. The Special Rapporteur introduced his fifth report, and the Commission referred draft articles 24 to 35 to the Drafting Committee. On the basis of the report of the Drafting Committee, the Commission provisionally adopted articles 9 to 20 with commentaries, as well as a consequential amendment to the text of draft article 8 and a modified version of the commentary thereto.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 1824th, 1825th, 1826th, 1827th, 1828th, 1829th and 1830th meetings (21 to 29 May 1984), 1832nd meeting (1 June 1984), 1842nd, 1843rd, 1844th, 1845th, 1846th and 1847th meetings (18 to 25 June 1984), and 1862nd, 1863rd and 1864th meetings (16 to 18 July 1984)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its thirty-seventh session, 6 May to 26 July 1985
    • Referred draft articles 23 and 36 to 43 to the Drafting Committee. Adopted provisionally draft articles 23, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 34 and 35 and commentaries thereto. Deleted brackets from paragraph 2 of article 12 and adopted new commentary to that paragraph.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 1903rd, 1904th, 1905th, 1906th, 1907th, 1908th, 1909th, 1910th, 1911th, 1912th, 1913th and 1914th meetings (14 June to 1 July 1985), and 1930th meeting (18 July 1985)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its thirty-eighth session, 5 May to 11 July 1986
    • Referred to the Drafting Committee articles 36, 37, 41 to 43 and new draft article 39. Provisionally adopted draft articles 28 to 33 with commentaries. Divided the draft articles into four parts: Part I: General Provisions (arts.1–6); Part II: Status of the diplomatic courier and the captain of a ship or aircraft entrusted with diplomatic bag (arts.7–23); Part III: (Status of the diplomatic bag (arts.24–29); and Part IV: Miscellaneous provisions (arts.30–33). Adopted on first reading the whole set of draft articles. Decided to transmit draft articles through the Secretary-General to Member States for comments and observations.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 1948th, 1949th, 1950th and 1951st meetings (20 to 23 May 1986), and 1980th meeting (2 July 1986)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its thirty-ninth session, 4 May to 27 July 1987
    • Emphasized the importance of the deadline of 1 January 1988 for submission by Governments of their comments and observations.
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its fortieth session, 9 May to 29 July 1988
    • The Commission had before it the eighth report of the Special Rapporteur, as well as written comments and observations submitted by Governments. After discussing the proposals made by the Special Rapporteur, the Commission referred the draft articles to the Drafting Committee for their second reading.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 2069th and 2070th meetings (28 and 29 June 1988), 2072nd meeting (1 July 1988), and 2076th, 2077th, 2078th, 2079th and 2080th meetings (8 to 15 July 1988)

General Assembly Action

  • Resolution 33/139 of 19 December 1978
    • Recommended that the Commission continue the study concerning the status of the diplomatic courier and the diplomatic bag not accompanied by diplomatic courier in light of the comments made in the Sixth Committee and comments to be submitted by Member States with a view to possible elaboration of an appropriate legal instrument. Invited all States to submit their written comments on the preliminary study carried out by the Commission.
 
  • Resolution 33/140 of 19 December 1978
    • Noted with appreciation the study by the Commission of the proposals on the elaboration of a protocol which could constitute a further development of international diplomatic law. It decided that it would give further consideration to this question and expressed the view that, unless Member States indicated the desirability of an earlier consideration, it would be appropriate to do so when the International Law Commission submitted to the Assembly the results of its work on the possible elaboration of an appropriate legal instrument on the topic.
 
  • Resolution 35/163 of 15 December 1980
    • Recommended that the Commission, taking into account the written comments of Governments and the views expressed in debates in the General Assembly, should continue its work on the topic with a view to the possible elaboration of an appropriate legal instrument.
 
  • Resolution 41/81 of 3 December 1986
    • Urged Governments to give full attention to the request of the Commission for comments and observations on the draft articles adopted on first reading by the Commission.
 
  • Resolution 42/156 of 7 December 1987
    • Urged Governments to give full attention to the request of the Commission for comments and observations on the draft articles adopted on first reading by the Commission.
 

Final Outcome

International Law Commission (41st session, 1989)

  • Recommended the convening of an international conference of plenipotentiaries

General Assembly

  • Resolution 44/36 of 4 December 1989
  • Resolution 45/43 of 28 November 1990
  • Resolution 46/57 of 9 December 1991
  • Decision 50/416 of 11 December 1995
    • Wishing to pay tribute to the valuable work done by the Commission on the draft articles, decided to bring the draft articles prepared by the Commission to the attention of Member States, together with the observations made by them in written form or orally during the debates of the Sixth Committee, including the report of the Vice-Chairman of the Committee at the forty-seventh session of the Assembly, and to remind Member States of the possibility that this field of international law and any further developments within it may be subject to codification at an appropriate time in the future.