International Law Commission International Law Commission

Last update: September 19, 2018

Current status of the work of the Commission and forthcoming deadlines *

Forthcoming deadlines for comments from Governments

  • 1 December 2018 — Crimes against humanity: comments and observations on the first reading of the draft articles on crimes against humanity (2017), in Chap. IV of A/72/10
  • 31 December 2018 — Peremptory norms of general international law (jus cogens): information requested in Chap. III.E of A/70/10
  • 31 December 2018 — Immunity of State officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction: information requested in Chap. III.B of A/73/10
  • 31 December 2018 — Protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts: information requested in Chap. III.C of A/73/10
  • 31 December 2018 — Succession of States in respect of State responsibility: information requested in Chap. III.D of A/73/10
  • 31 December 2018  — New topics: comments requested in Chap. III.E of A/73/10
  • 15 December 2019  — comments on draft preamble and draft guidelines on protection of the atmosphere, as adopted on first reading (2018), in Chap. VI of A/73/10
  • 15 December 2019 — comments on draft guidelines on the provisional application of treaties (Guide to Provisional Application of Treaties), as adopted on first reading (2018), in Chap. VII of A/73/10

Drafting Committee

The following draft articles are presently before the Drafting Committee:

  • Peremptory norms of general international law (Jus cogens) (2016–2018): draft guidelines 1, 2 [3], 4 to 9, and 10 to 23
  • Succession of States in respect of State responsibility (2017 & 2018): draft articles 1 to 4, and 5 to 11

The following draft articles/conclusions/guidelines have been adopted by the Commission, during the present quinquennium, on the basis of reports of the Drafting Committee:

  • Immunity of State officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction
  • Identification of customary international law
    • 2016: draft conclusions 1 to 16, as adopted on first reading (A/CN.4/L.872); See: Drafting Committee Chairman’s statement
    • 2018: draft conclusions 1 to 16, as adopted on second reading (A/CN.4/L.908); See: Drafting Committee Chairman’s statement
  • Subsequent agreements and subsequent practice in relation to the interpretation of treaties:
  • Protection of the atmosphere:
    • 2015: preambular paragraphs and draft guidelines 1, 2 and 5 (A/CN.4/L.851); See: Drafting Committee Chairman’s statement
    • 2016: draft guidelines 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, and a preambular paragraph (A/CN.4/L.875); See: Drafting Committee Chairman’s statement
    • 2017: draft guideline 9 and three preambular paragraphs (A/CN.4/L.894); See: Drafting Committee Chairman’s statement
    • 2018: draft preamble and draft guidelines 1 to 12 on the protection of the atmosphere, as adopted on first reading (A/CN.4/L.909); See: Drafting Committee Chairman’s statement
  • Crimes against humanity:
  • Protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts:
    • 2015: introductory provisions and draft principles provisionally adopted in 2015 (A/CN.4/L.870); See: Drafting Committee Chairman’s statement
    • 2016: revised text of draft principles provisionally adopted in 2015 (A/CN.4/L.870/Rev.1), see Drafting Committee Chairman’s statement, and draft principles 4, 6, 7, 8, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18, provisionally adopted in 2016 (A/CN.4/L.876); See Drafting Committee Chairman’s statement
    • 2018: draft principles 19, 20 and 21 (A/CN.4/L.911); See: Drafting Committee Chairman’s statement
  • Provisional application of treaties
    • 2015: draft guidelines 1 to 3; See Drafting Committee Chairman’s interim oral report
    • 2016: draft guidelines 1 to 4 and 6 to 9 (A/CN.4/L.877); See Drafting Committee Chairman’s statement
    • 2017: draft guidelines 1 to 11 (A/CN.4/L.895/Rev.1); See Drafting Committee Chairman’s first and second statements
    • 2018: draft guidelines 1 to 12 on the provisional application of treaties (Guide to Provisional Application of Treaties), as adopted on first reading (A/CN.4/L.910); See: Drafting Committee Chairman’s statement
  • Peremptory norms of general international law (Jus cogens)
  • Succession of States in respect of State responsibility

Working and Study Groups

No Working or Study Groups are currently active.

Long-term programme of work

The following topics are presently on the long-term programme of work:

  • Ownership and protection of wrecks beyond the limits of national maritime jurisdiction (1996 report, add.2)
  • Jurisdictional immunity of international organizations (2006 report, annex B)
  • Protection of personal data in transborder flow of information (2006 report, annex D)
  • Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (2006 report, annex E)
  • The fair and equitable treatment standard in international investment law (2011 report, annex D)
  • Settlement of international disputes to which international organizations are parties (2016 report, annex A)
  • General principles of law (2017 report, annex A)
  • Evidence before international courts and tribunals (2017 report, annex B)
  • Universal criminal jurisdiction (2018 report, annex A)
  • Sea-level rise in relation to international law (2018 report, annex B)

The Commission recently concluded its work on the following topics:

Subsequent agreements and subsequent practice in relation to the interpretation of treaties (Summary | Analytical Guide)

The Commission commenced its consideration of the topic in 2009, with the establishment of a Study Group under the chairmanship of Mr. Georg Nolte. The Study Group held a preliminary discussion in 2009 and continued its consideration of the topic at the sixty-second, sixty-third and sixty-fourth sessions, in 2010 to 2012, respectively. At its sixty-fourth session, in 2012, the Commission decided (a) to change, with effect from its sixty-fifth session (2013), the format of the work; and (b) to appoint Mr. Georg Nolte as Special Rapporteur for the topic “Subsequent agreements and subsequent practice in relation to the interpretation of treaties”.

The Commission subsequently proceeded on the basis of five reports of the Special Rapporteur. At its seventieth session, in 2018, the Commission adopted on second reading a set of 13 draft conclusions, together with commentaries thereto, on subsequent agreements and subsequent practice in relation to the interpretation of treaties. In accordance with article 23 of its statute, the Commission recommended that the General Assembly take note in a resolution of the draft conclusions on subsequent agreements and subsequent practice in relation to the interpretation of treaties, annex the draft conclusions to the resolution, and ensure their widest dissemination; and commend the draft conclusions, together with the commentaries thereto, to the attention of States and all who may be called upon to interpret treaties. (chapter IV of the 2018 report).

Identification of customary international law (Summary | Analytical Guide)

At its sixty-fourth session, in 2012, the Commission decided to include the topic in its programme of work and appointed Mr. Michael Wood as Special Rapporteur.

The Commission subsequently proceeded on the basis of five reports of the Special Rapporteur. At its seventieth session, in 2018, the Commission adopted on second reading a set of 16 draft conclusions, together with commentaries thereto, on identification of customary international law. In accordance with article 23 of its statute, the Commission recommended that the General Assembly, inter alia, take note in a resolution of the draft conclusions on identification of customary international law, annex the draft conclusions to the resolution, and ensure their widest dissemination; commend the draft conclusions, together with the commentaries thereto, to the attention of States and all who may be called upon to identify rules of customary international law; and follow up the suggestions in the Secretariat memorandum. (chapter V of the 2018 report).

The following topics are on the programme of work of the Commission:

Immunity of State officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction (Summary | Analytical Guide)

The Commission commenced its consideration of the topic in 2008, and has considered three reports by the former Special Rapporteur, Mr. Roman Kolodkin, as well as a memorandum prepared by the Secretariat, as well as four reports by Ms. Concepción Escobar Hernández, who was appointed as Special Rapporteur in 2012 to replace Mr. Roman Kolodkin.

At its sixty-fifth session, in 2013, the Commission had before it the second report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/661), in which, inter alia, six draft articles were presented, following an analysis of: (a) the scope of the topic and of the draft articles; (b) the concepts of immunity and jurisdiction; (c) the difference between immunity ratione personae and immunity ratione materiae; and (d) identified the basic norms comprising the regime of immunity ratione personae. Following the debate in plenary, the Commission decided to refer the six draft articles to the Drafting Committee. Upon consideration of the report of the Drafting Committee, the Commission provisionally adopted three draft articles, 1 (Scope of the present draft articles/Champ d’application du présent projet d’articles), 3 (Persons enjoying immunity ratione personae/Bénéficiaires de l’immunité ratione personae) and 4 (Scope of immunity ratione personae/Portée de l’immunité ratione personae). (chapter V of the 2013 report)

At its sixty-sixth session, in 2014, the Commission considered the third report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/673), in which, inter alia, draft article 2 (e), on the definition of State official, and draft article 5, on the Beneficiaries of immunity ratione materiae, were presented. Following the debate in plenary, the Commission decided to refer the two draft articles to the Drafting Committee. Upon consideration of the report of the Drafting Committee, the Commission provisionally adopted draft article 2 (e), on the definition of State official, and draft article 5, on the Persons enjoying immunity ratione materiae (A/CN.4/L.850), together with commentaries thereto. (chapter IX of the 2014 report)

At its sixty-seventh session, in 2015, the Commission considered the fourth report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/686), which was devoted to the consideration of the remaining aspects of the material scope of immunity ratione materiae, namely what constituted an “act performed in an official capacity”, and its temporal scope. The report contained proposals for draft article 2, subparagraph (f), defining an “act performed in an official capacity” and draft article 6 on the scope of immunity ratione materiae. Following the debate in plenary, the Commission decided to refer the two draft articles to the Drafting Committee. The Commission subsequently received the report of the Drafting Committee (A/CN.4/L.865), and took note of draft articles 2, subparagraph (f), and 6, provisionally adopted by the Drafting Committee (chapter X of the 2015 report). (see statement of the Chairman of the Drafting Committee)

At its sixty-eighth session, in 2016, the Commission had before it the fifth report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/701), which analysed the question of limitations and exceptions to the immunity of State officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction. Since at the time of its consideration the report was only available to the Commission in two of the six official languages of the United Nations, the debate in the Commission was commenced, involving members wishing to comment on the fifth report at the sixty-eighth session, and was scheduled to be continued at the sixty-ninth session of the Commission (2017). Upon its consideration of the report of the Drafting Committee on work done previously and taken note of by the Commission during its sixty-seventh session (A/CN.4/L.865), the Commission provisionally adopted draft articles 2 (f) and 6, together with commentaries thereto (chap. XI of the 2016 report).

At its sixty-ninth session, in 2017, the Commission continued its consideration of the fifth report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/701). Following the plenary debate, the Commission referred draft article 7, as proposed by the Special Rapporteur in her fifth report, to the Drafting Committee. Upon its consideration of the report of the Drafting Committee, the Commission voted to adopt draft article 7, an annex to the draft articles and a footnote to two of its headings, together with commentaries thereto. (chap. VII of the 2017 report)

At its seventieth session, in 2018, the Commission had before it the sixth report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/722), which was devoted to addressing procedural aspects of immunity from foreign criminal jurisdiction, in particular, analysing the way in which procedural aspects had been dealt with previously in the work of the Commission, how such procedural aspects fit within the overall boundaries of the present topic and the approach which the Special Rapporteur intended to follow when further analysing procedural aspects; and providing an analysis of three components of procedural aspects related to the concept of jurisdiction, namely: (a) timing; (b) kinds of acts affected; and (c) the determination of immunity. There were no draft articles proposed for consideration. The debate of the Commission on the sixth report was partial and will be completed in 2019. (chap. XI of the 2018 report)

Provisional applications of treaties (Summary | Analytical Guide)

At its sixty-fourth session, in 2012, the Commission decided to include the topic in its programme of work and appointed Mr. Juan Manuel Gómez-Robledo as Special Rapporteur.

The Commission subsequently proceeded on the basis of five reports of the Special Rapporteur. At its seventieth session, in 2018, the Commission adopted on first reading a set of 12 draft guidelines (as the “Guide to Provisional Application of Treaties”), together with commentaries thereto, and decided, in accordance with articles 16 to 21 of its Statute, to transmit the draft guidelines, through the Secretary-General, to Governments and international organizations for comments and observations, with the request that such comments and observations be submitted to the Secretary-General by 15 December 2019 (chapter VII of the 2018 report).

Protection of the environment in relation to armed conflict (Summary | Analytical Guide)

At its sixty-fifth session, in 2013, the Commission decided to include the topic in its programme of work, and appointed Ms. Marie G. Jacobsson as Special Rapporteur. The Special Rapporteur presented the Commission with a series of informal working papers with a view to initiating an informal dialogue with members of the Commission on a number of issues that could be relevant for the development and consideration of the work on the topic. Issues addressed in the informal consultations included, inter alia, scope and methodology, the possible outcome of the Commission's work, as well as a number of substantive issues relating to the topic (chap. IX of the 2013 report).

At its sixty-sixth session, in 2014, the Commission had before it the preliminary report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/674 and Corr.1), which, inter alia, presented an overview of views expressed by delegates in the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly, practice of States and international organizations, scope and methodology, use of terms, environmental principles, and issues relating to human and indigenous rights. The debate in the plenary addressed, among other issues, scope and methodology, use of terms, environmental principles, and human and indigenous rights. (chapter XI of the 2014 report)

At its sixty-seventh session, in 2015, the Commission had before it the second report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/685), which, inter alia, identified and examined existing rules of armed conflict directly relevant to the protection of the environment in relation to armed conflict. The report contained five draft principles and three draft preambular paragraphs relating to the scope and purpose of the draft principles as well as use of terms. Following the debate in Plenary, the Commission decided to refer the draft preambular paragraphs and the draft principles, as contained in the report of the Special Rapporteur, to the Drafting Committee, with the understanding that the provision on use of terms was referred for the purpose of facilitating discussions and was to be left pending by the Drafting Committee. The Commission subsequently received the report of the Drafting Committee (A/CN.4/L.870), and took note of the draft introductory provisions and draft principles I-(x) to II-5, provisionally adopted by the Drafting Committee (chapter IX of the 2015 report). (see statement of the Chairman of the Drafting Committee)

At its sixty-eighth session, in 2016, the Commission had before it the third report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/700), which focused on identifying rules applicable in post-conflict situations, while also addressing some preventive issues to be undertaken in the pre-conflict phase. The report contained three draft principles on preventive measures, five draft principles concerning primarily the post-conflict phase and one draft principle on the rights of indigenous peoples. The Commission decided to refer the draft principles, as contained in the report of the Special Rapporteur, to the Drafting Committee. The Commission subsequently received the report of the Drafting Committee (A/CN.4/L.876), as presented by the Chairperson of the Drafting Committee, and took note of draft principles 4, 6, 7, 8, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18, provisionally adopted by the Drafting Committee. Furthermore, the Commission provisionally adopted the draft principles it had taken note of during its sixty-seventh session, which had been renumbered and revised for technical reasons (A/CN.4/L.870/Rev.1) by the Drafting Committee at the present session, together with commentaries thereto (chap. X of the 2016 report).

At its sixty-ninth session, the Commission established a Working Group on the topic, chaired by Mr. Marcelo Vázquez-Bermúdez. The Working Group had before it the draft commentaries prepared by the Special Rapporteur, even though she was no longer with the Commission, on draft principles 4, 6 to 8, and 14 to 18 provisionally adopted by the Drafting Committee at the sixty-eighth session of the Commission, and taken note of by the Commission at the same session. The Working Group focused its discussion on considering the way forward. Upon consideration of the oral report the Chairperson of the Working Group, the Commission decided to appoint Ms. Marja Lehto as Special Rapporteur (chap. X of the 2017 report).

At its seventieth session, in 2018, the Commission adopted draft principles 4, 6, 7, 8, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 (A/CN.4/L.876), which had been taken note of at the sixty-eighth session (2016). The Commission further had before it the first report of the Special Rapporteur, Ms. Marja Lehto (A/CN.4/720 + Corr.1). The report provided an overview of previous work on the topic, and debate held in the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly. It further considered the protection of the environment under the law of occupation; protection of the environment in situations of occupation through international human rights law; and the role of international environmental law in situations of occupation. Proposals were made for draft principles 6 (2) (Protection of the environment of indigenous peoples), 15 (Post-armed conflict environmental assessments and remedial measures), 16 (Remnants of war), 17 (Remnants of war at sea) and 18 (Sharing and granting access to information). The Commission decided to refer the draft principles proposed in the first report of the Special Rapporteur to the Drafting Committee. The Commission subsequently received the report of the Drafting Committee (A/CN.4/L.911), and took note of draft principles 19 to 21, provisionally adopted by the Drafting Committee. Furthermore, the Commission provisionally adopted draft principles 4, 6 to 8, and 14 to 18, which had been provisionally adopted by the Drafting Committee at the sixty-eighth session, together with commentaries thereto. (chap. IX of the 2018 report)

Protection of the atmosphere (Summary | Analytical Guide)

At its sixty-fifth session, in 2013, the Commission decided to include the topic in its programme of work, and to appoint Mr. Shinya Murase as Special Rapporteur for the topic, subject to the following understanding:

"(a) Work on the topic will proceed in a manner so as not to interfere with relevant political negotiations, including on climate change, ozone depletion, and long-range transboundary air pollution. The topic will not deal with, but is also without prejudice to, questions such as: liability of States and their nationals, the polluter-pays principle, the precautionary principle, common but differentiated responsibilities, and the transfer of funds and technology to developing countries, including intellectual property rights;

(b) The topic will also not deal with specific substances, such as black carbon, tropospheric ozone, and other dual-impact substances, which are the subject of negotiations among States. The project will not seek to “fill” gaps in the treaty regimes;

(c) Questions relating to outer space, including its delimitation, are not part of the topic;

(d) The outcome of the work on the topic will be draft guidelines that do not seek to impose on current treaty regimes legal rules or legal principles not already contained therein.

The Special Rapporteur’s reports would be based on such understanding." (chapter XII, sect. A.1 of the 2013 report)

The Commission subsequently proceeded on the basis of five reports of the Special Rapporteur. At its seventieth session, in 2018, the Commission adopted on first reading a draft preamble and a set of 12 draft guidelines (as the “Guidelines on Protection of the Atmosphere”), together with commentaries thereto, and decided, in accordance with articles 16 to 21 of its Statute, to transmit the draft guidelines, through the Secretary-General, to Governments and international organizations for comments and observations, with the request that such comments and observations be submitted to the Secretary-General by 15 December 2019 (chapter VI of the 2018 report).

Crimes against humanity (Summary | Analytical Guide)

At its sixty-sixth session, in 2014, the Commission decided to include the topic in its programme of work, and to appoint Mr. Sean D. Murphy as Special Rapporteur for the topic. (chapter XIV, sect. A.1 of the 2014 report)

The Commission subsequently proceeded on the basis of three reports of the Special Rapporteur. At its sixty-ninth session, in 2016, the Commission adopted on first reading a draft preamble, a set of 15 draft articles and a draft annex, together with commentaries thereto, on crimes against humanity, and decided, in accordance with articles 16 to 21 of its Statute, to transmit the draft conclusions, through the Secretary-General, to Governments, international organizations and others, for comments and observations, with the request that such comments and observations be submitted to the Secretary-General by 1 December 2018 (chapter IV of the 2017 report).

Peremptory norms of generational international law (jus cogens) (Summary | Analytical Guide)

At its sixty-seventh session, in 2015, the Commission decided to include the topic in its programme of work, and to appoint Mr. Dire D. Tladi as Special Rapporteur for the topic.

At its sixty-eighth session, in 2016, the Commission had before it the first report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/693), which addressed conceptual issues relating to peremptory norms (jus cogens), including their nature and definition, and traced the historical evolution of peremptory norms and, prior to that, the acceptance in international law of the elements central to the concept of peremptory norms of global international law. The report further raised a number of methodological issues on which the Commission was invited to comment, and reviewed the debates held in the Sixth Committee in 2014 and 2015. The Commission subsequently decided to refer the draft conclusions, contained in the report of the Special Rapporteur, to the Drafting Committee. The Commission subsequently took note of the interim report of the Chairperson of the Drafting Committee on draft conclusions 1 and 2 provisionally adopted by the Committee, which was submitted to the Commission for information (chap. IX of the 2016 report).

At its sixty-ninth session, the Commission had before it the second report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/706), which sought to set out the criteria for the identification of peremptory norms (jus cogens), taking the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties as a point of departure. The Commission subsequently decided to refer draft conclusions 4 to 9, as contained in the report of the Special Rapporteur, to the Drafting Committee, and decided to change the title of the topic from “Jus cogens” to “Peremptory norms of general international law (jus cogens)”, as proposed by the Special Rapporteur. The Commission subsequently took note of the interim report of the Chairperson of the Drafting Committee on draft conclusions 2 [3 (2)], 4, 5, 6 and 7 provisionally adopted by the Committee, which was submitted to the Commission for information (see chap. VIII of the 2017 report).

At its seventieth session, in 2018, the Commission had before it the third report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/714), which considered the consequences and legal effects of peremptory norms of general international (jus cogens). On the basis of his analysis, the Special Rapporteur proposed thirteen draft conclusions. The Commission decided to refer draft conclusions 10 to 23 to the Drafting Committee. The Commission took note of the interim reports of the Chair of the Drafting Committee on draft conclusions 8 and 9, as well as 10 to 14, provisionally adopted by the Committee, which were presented to the Commission for information. (chap. VIII of the 2018 report)

Succession of States in respect of State responsibility (Summary | Analytical Guide)

At its sixty-ninth session, the Commission decided to include the topic in its programme of work, and to appoint Mr. Pavel Šturma as Special Rapporteur. The Commission had before it the first report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/708), which sought to set out the Special Rapporteur’s approach to the scope and outcome of the topic, and to provide an overview of general provisions relating to the topic. Following the debate in plenary, the Commission decided to refer draft articles 1 to 4, as contained in the report of the Special Rapporteur, to the Drafting Committee. The Commission subsequently took note of the interim report of the Chairperson of the Drafting Committee on draft articles 1 and 2 provisionally adopted by the Committee, which was submitted to the Commission for information (see chap. IX of the 2017 report).

At its seventieth session, in 2018, the Commission had before it the second report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Pavel Šturma (A/CN.4/719). The report provided an outline of general approach (methodology) to the topic. It further discussed the legality of succession, and reviewed the general rules on succession of States in respect of State responsibility, particularly in relation to attribution and in relation to the difference between continuing and completed breaches. The report also discussed cases of succession where the predecessor State continued to exist and cases of succession where the predecessor State did not exist. The Commission decided to refer draft articles 5 to 11, as contained in the report of the Special Rapporteur, to the Drafting Committee. The Commission subsequently took note of the interim report of the Chair of the Drafting Committee on draft article 1, paragraph 2, and draft articles 5 and 6 provisionally adopted by the Committee, which was presented to the Commission for information only. (chap. X of the 2018 report)

Other decisions and conclusions of the Commission

At its seventieth session, in 2018, the Commission decided to include the topic “General principles of law” in its programme of work and decided to appoint Mr. Marcelo Vázquez-Bermúdez as Special Rapporteur for the topic. (chap. XIII, sect. A of the 2018 report)

* The information on this page reflects the status as of the date indicated, and will be updated three times per year: shortly before the annual session, after the first part of the annual session, and after the conclusion of the annual session.