International Law Commission International Law Commission

Last update: August 10, 2017

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

Forthcoming deadlines for comments from Governments

  • 1 January 2018 — comments on the draft conclusions on identification of customary international law, as adopted on first reading (2016)
  • 1 January 2018 — comments on the draft conclusions on subsequent agreements and subsequent practice in relation to the interpretation of treaties, as adopted on first reading (2016)
  • 15 January 2018 — Protection of the atmosphere: information requested in Chap. III.B of A/69/10
  • 15 January 2018 — Provisional application of treaties: information requested in Chap. III.D of A/70/10
  • 15 January 2018 — Peremptory norms of general international law (jus cogens): information requested in Chap. III.E of A/70/10
  • 15 January 2018  — Immunity of State officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction: information requested in Chap. III.A of A/72/10
  • 15 January 2018  — Succession of States in respect of State responsibility: information requested in Chap. III.B of A/72/10
  • 15 January 2018  — New topics: comments requested in Chap. III.C of A/72/10
  • 1 December 2018 — comments on draft articles on crimes against humanity, as adopted on first reading (2017)

Drafting Committee

The following draft articles are presently before the Drafting Committee:

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

The following draft articles/conclusions 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Provisional application of treaties
  • 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)

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)

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 four reports of the Special Rapporteur. At its sixty-eighth session, in 2016, the Commission adopted on first reading a set of 13 draft conclusions, together with commentaries thereto, on subsequent agreements and subsequent practice in relation to the interpretation of treaties, and decided, in accordance with articles 16 to 21 of its Statute, to transmit the draft conclusions, through the Secretary-General, to Governments for comments and observations, with the request that such comments and observations be submitted to the Secretary-General by 1 January 2018 (chapter VI of the 2016 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.

At its sixty-fifth session, in 2013, the Commission had before it the first report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/664) which sought to establish, in general terms, the principal legal issues that arose in the context of the provisional application of treaties by considering doctrinal approaches to the topic and briefly reviewing the existing State practice. The Commission also had before it a memorandum by the Secretariat which traced the negotiating history of article 25 both in the Commission and at the Vienna Conference on the Law of Treaties (A/CN.4/658). The debate revolved around the purpose of the provisional application of treaties, and the elaboration of specific issues to be considered in the future reports of the Special Rapporteur (chap. VIII of the 2013 report).

At its sixty-sixth session, in 2014, the Commission had before it the second report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/675) that sought to provide a substantive analysis of the legal effects of the provisional application of treaties. The debate revealed broad agreement that the basic premise underlying the topic was that, subject to the specificities of the treaty in question, the rights and obligations of a State which had decided to provisionally apply the treaty, or parts thereof, were the same as if the treaty were in force for that State). (chapter XII of the 2014 report)

At its sixty-seventh session, in 2015, the Commission the Commission had before it the third report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/687), which considered the relationship of provisional application to other provisions of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties of 1969, and the question of provisional application with regard to international organizations. The Commission also had before it a memorandum (A/CN.4/676), prepared by the Secretariat, on provisional application under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties between States and International Organizations or between International Organizations of 1986. The Commission referred six draft guidelines, proposed by the Special Rapporteur, to the Drafting Committee. The Commission subsequently received an interim oral report, presented by the Chairman of the Drafting Committee, on draft guidelines 1 to 3, provisionally adopted by the Drafting Committee, and which was presented to the Commission for information only (chapter XI of the 2015 report).

At its sixty-eighth session, in 2016, the Commission had before it the fourth report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/699 and Add.1), which continued the analysis of the relationship of provisional application to other provisions of the 1969 Vienna Convention and of the practice of international organizations with regard to provisional application. The report included a proposal for a draft guideline 10 on internal law and the observation of provisional application of all or part of a treaty. The addendum to the report contained examples of recent European Union practice on provisional application of agreements with third States. The Commission decided to refer draft guideline 10, as contained in the fourth report of the Special Rapporteur, to the Drafting Committee. The Commission subsequently received the report of the Drafting Committee (A/CN.4/L.877), as presented by the Chairperson of the Drafting Committee, and took note of draft guidelines 1 to 4 and 6 to 9, provisionally adopted by the Drafting Committee during the sixty-seventh and sixty-eighth sessions. Draft guideline 5 on unilateral declarations had been kept in abeyance by the Drafting Committee to be returned to at a later stage (chap. XII of the 2016 report).

At its sixty-ninth session, the Commission referred draft guidelines 1 to 4 and 6 to 9, provisionally adopted by the Drafting Committee in 2016, back to the Drafting Committee, with a view to having a consolidated set of draft guidelines, as provisionally worked out thus far, prepared. The Commission subsequently provisionally adopted draft guidelines 1 to 11, as presented by the Drafting Committee at the current session, with commentaries thereto (chap. V of the 2017 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 four reports of the Special Rapporteur. At its sixty-eighth session, in 2016, the Commission adopted on first reading a set of 16 draft conclusions, together with commentaries thereto, on identification of customary international law, and decided, in accordance with articles 16 to 21 of its Statute, to transmit the draft conclusions, through the Secretary-General, to Governments for comments and observations, with the request that such comments and observations be submitted to the Secretary-General by 1 January 2018 (chapter V of the 2016 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).

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)

At its sixty-sixth session, in 2014, the Commission considered the first report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/667). The report addressed the general objective of the project, including providing the rationale for work on the topic, delineating its general scope, identifying the relevant basic concepts and offering perspectives and approaches to be taken with respect to the subject; and presented three draft guidelines concerning (a) the definition of the term “atmosphere; (b) the scope of the draft guidelines; and (c) the legal status of the atmosphere. Following the debate in plenary, the referral of the draft guidelines to the Drafting Committee was deferred, at the request of the Special Rapporteur, until the following session. (chapter VIII 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.4/681 and Corr.1 (Chinese only)), which, upon a further analysis of the draft guidelines submitted in the first report, presented a set of revised draft guidelines relating to the use of terms, the scope of the draft guidelines, and the common concern of humankind, as well as draft guidelines on the general obligation of States to protect the atmosphere and on international cooperation. Following the debate in Plenary, the Commission decided to refer draft guidelines 1, 2, 3 and 5 to the Drafting Committee with the understanding that draft guideline 3 be considered as part of a preamble. The Special Rapporteur proposed to defer the referral by the Commission of draft guideline 4 to the Drafting Committee to the next session. Upon consideration of the report of the Drafting Committee (A/CN.4/L.851), the Commission provisionally adopted, as orally revised,  draft guidelines 1 (Use of terms/Définition), 2 (Scope of the guidelines/Champ d’application des directives) and 5 (International cooperation/Coopération internationale), together with commentaries thereto (chapter V of the 2015 report)

At its sixty-eighth session, in 2016, the Commission had before it the third report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/692), which, building upon the previous two reports, analysed several key issues relevant to the topic, namely, the obligations of States to prevent atmospheric pollution and mitigate atmospheric degradation and the requirement of due diligence and environmental impact assessment. The report also explored questions concerning sustainable and equitable utilization of the atmosphere, as well as the legal limits on certain activities aimed at intentional modification of the atmosphere. Consequently, 5 draft guidelines were proposed on the obligation of States to protect the environment, environmental impact assessment, sustainable utilization of the atmosphere, equitable utilization of the atmosphere, and geo-engineering, together with an additional preambular paragraph. Following the debate in the Commission, which was preceded by a dialogue with scientists organized by the Special Rapporteur, the Commission decided to refer the 5 draft guidelines, together with the preambular paragraph, as contained in the Special Rapporteur’s third report, to the Drafting Committee. Upon its consideration of the report of the Drafting Committee (A/CN.4/L.875), as presented by the Chairperson of the Drafting Committee, the Commission considered and provisionally adopted draft guidelines 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 and a preambular paragraph, together with commentaries thereto (chap. VIII of the 2016 report).

At its sixty-ninth session, the Commission had before it the fourth report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/705 and Corr.1), which, building upon the previous three reports, proposed four guidelines on the interrelationship between the rules of international law relating to the protection of the atmosphere and other relevant rules of international law, including the rules of international trade and investment law, the law of the sea, and international human rights law. Following the debate in the Commission, which was preceded by an informal dialogue with atmospheric scientists organized by the Special Rapporteur, the Commission decided to refer the four draft guidelines, as contained in the Special Rapporteur’s fourth report, to the Drafting Committee. Upon its consideration of the report of the Drafting Committee, the Commission provisionally adopted draft guideline 9 and three preambular paragraphs, together with commentaries thereto (see chap. VI of the 2017 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).

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).

* 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.