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Last update: July 15, 2015

Summaries of the Work of the International Law Commission

Effects of armed conflicts on treaties

See also: Analytical Guide | Texts and Instruments

At its fifty-second session, in 2000, the Commission, on the basis of the recommendation of a Working Group on the long-term programme of work, identified the topic “Effects of armed conflicts on treaties” for inclusion in its long-term programme of work.1 

The General Assembly, in resolution 55/152 of 12 December 2000, took note of the Commission’s report concerning its long-term programme of work. In resolution 56/82 of 12 December 2001, the Assembly requested the Commission to further consider the topic, having due regard to comments made by Governments.

At its fifty-sixth session, in 2004, the Commission decided to include the topic “Effects of armed conflicts on treaties" in its programme of work and to appoint Mr. Ian Brownlie as Special Rapporteur for the topic.2 

The General Assembly, in resolution 59/41 of 2 December 2004, endorsed the Commission’s decision to include the topic in its programme of work.

At its fifty-seventh session, in 2005, the Commission had before it the first report of the Special Rapporteur3 containing an entire set of draft articles and providing an overall view of the topic. The Commission also had before it a memorandum prepared by the Secretariat entitled, “The effect of armed conflict on treaties: an examination of practice and doctrine”4. The Commission endorsed the Special Rapporteur's suggestion that the Secretariat be requested to circulate a note to Governments requesting information about their practice with regard to the topic, in particular more contemporary practice.5

At its fifty-eighth session, in 2006, the Commission had before it the second report of the Special Rapporteur.6 The second report focused in two matters: (a) considering specific elements of the debate in the Commission and the substantial points made by various governments in the debate in the Sixth Committee at the sixtieth session of the General assembly; and (b) implementing the first report by asking the Commission to consider the first seven draft articles with a view to referring them to the Drafting Committee or to a working group.7

At its fifty-ninth session, in 2007, the Commission considered the third report of the Special Rapporteur8 and decided to establish a Working Group under the Chairmanship of Mr. Lucius Caflisch. The Commission subsequently adopted the report of the Working Group and decided to refer draft articles 1 to 3, 5, 5 bis, 7, 10 and 11 as proposed by the Special Rapporteur and draft article 4 as proposed by the Working Group to the Drafting Committee.9

The General Assembly, in its resolution 62/66 of 6 December 2007, reiterated its invitation to Governments to provide information to the Commission regarding State practice, in particular more contemporary practice on the topic "Effects of armed conflicts on treaties".

At its sixtieth session, in 2008, the Commission considered the Special Rapporteur's fourth report,10 which addressed the effects of armed conflict on treaties in relation to the procedure for suspension or termination. The Commission subsequently re-established the Working Group on the topic with the aim of concluding the consideration of several issues raised during the examination of the Special Rapporteur's third report during the previous session. The Commission subsequently adopted, on first reading, a set of 18 draft articles on the effects of armed conflicts on treaties, together with an annex and a set of commentaries.11 The Commission decided, in accordance with articles 16 to 21 of its Statute, to transmit the draft articles, 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 2010.12

Following the resignation from the Commission of Mr. Ian Brownlie, the Commission appointed Mr. Lucius Caflisch as Special Rapporteur for the topic at its sixty-first session, in 2009.13

At its sixty-second session in 2010, the Commission had before it the first report of the Special Rapporteur,14 containing his proposals for the reformulation of the draft articles as adopted on first reading, taking into account the comments and observations of Governments. The Commission also had before it a compilation of written comments and observations received from Governments.15 The Commission referred draft articles 1 to 17 to the Drafting Committee.16

At the sixty-third session in 2011, the Commission continued and completed the second reading (commenced at its sixty-second session in 2010) of the draft articles on the effects of armed conflicts on treaties. It was thus able to adopt, on second reading, a set of 18 draft articles and an annex (containing a list of treaties the subject matter of which involves an implication that they continue in operation, in whole or in part, during armed conflict), together with commentaries thereto, on the topic.17 In accordance with article 23 of its Statute, the Commission recommended to the General Assembly to take note of the draft articles in a resolution and to annex them to the resolution, and to consider, at a later stage, the elaboration of a convention on the basis of the draft articles.18

The work of the Commission on the topic as described above has been proceeding in accordance with the successive resolutions adopted by the General Assembly under the item relating to the report of the International Law Commission.19

1 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Fifty-fifth Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/55/10), paras. 726–728 and 729 (2). For the syllabus on the topic, see ibid., annex (2).

2 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Fifty-ninth Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/59/10), para. 364.

3 Document A/CN.4/552. (see Analytical Guide)

4 Document A/CN.4/550 and Corr.1. (see Analytical Guide) For the consideration of the topic by the Commission at its fifty-seventh session see: Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixtieth Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/60/10), paras. 108–191.

5 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixtieth Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/60/10), para. 112.

6 Document A/CN.4/570 and Corr.1. (see Analytical Guide)

7 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixty-first Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/61/10), paras. 181 and 182.

8 Document A/CN.4/578 and Corr.1. (see Analytical Guide)

9 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixty-second Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/62/10), para. 16.

10 Document A/CN.4/589. (see Analytical Guide)

11 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixty-third Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/63/10), para. 61.

12 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixty-third Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/63/10), para. 63.

13 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixty-fourth Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/64/10), para. 229.

14 Document A/CN.4/627 and Add.1. (see Analytical Guide)

15 Document A/CN.4/622 and Add.1. (see Analytical Guide)

16 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixty-fifth Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/65/10), para. 190.

17 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixty-sixth session, Supplement No. 10 (A/66/10), paras. 100 and 101.

18 Ibid., para. 97.

19 General Assembly resolutions 55/152 of 12 December 2000, 59/41 of 2 December 2004; 60/22 of 23 November 2005; 62/66 of 6 December 2007; and 63/123 of 11 December 2008.