International Law Commission International Law Commission

Last update: November 29, 2022

Analytical Guide to the Work of the International Law Commission

General principles of law

See also: Summary | Texts and Instruments

Mandate

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

  • 72nd session of the International Law Commission (2021)
    • Memorandum prepared by the Secretariat

Reports of the Working Group or Sub-Committee

None

Reports of the Special Rapporteur

  • Discussion on the scope and outcome of the topic and methodological approach. Description of previous work of the Commission. Question of the development of general principles of law over time. Consideration of the elements and origins of general principle of law. Proposals for three draft conclusions.
    • First report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Marcelo Vázquez-Bermúdez (71st session of the ILC (2019))
  • Discussion of the identification of general principles of law in the sense of Article 38, paragraph 1(c), of the Statute of the International Court of Justice. Proposal for six draft conclusions on: identification of general principles of law derived from national legal systems, determination of the existence of a principle common to the principal legal systems of the world, ascertainment of transposition to the international legal system, identification of general principles of law formed within the international legal system, decisions of courts and tribunals, and teachings of the most highly qualified publicists.
    • Second report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Marcelo Vázquez-Bermúdez (72nd session of the ILC (2021))
  • Discussion of: (a) the issue of transposition of principles common to the various legal systems of the world to the international legal system; (b) the identification of general principles of law formed within the international legal system; and (c) the functions of general principles of law and their relationship with other sources of international law.  Proposal for five draft conclusions on: absence of hierarchy between the sources of international law, parallel existence, lex specialis principle, gap-filling, and specific functions of general principles of law.
    • Third report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Marcelo Vázquez-Bermúdez (73rd session of the ILC (2022))

Reports of the Drafting Committee

 
  • 72nd session of the International Law Commission (2021)
    • Texts and titles of draft conclusions 1, 2, 4 and 5 provisionally adopted by the Drafting Committee
    • Statement of the Chair of the Drafting Committee
  • 73rd session of the International Law Commission (2022)
    • Consolidated text of draft conclusions 1 to 11 provisionally adopted by the Drafting Committee
    • Statement of the Chair of the Drafting Committee

Comments by Governments

 

Other

None

Reports of the International Law Commission

  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its seventy-first session, 29 April–7 June and 8 July–9 August 2019
    • The Commission had before it the first report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/732).
    • The Commission considered the report at its 3488th to 3494th meetings, from 23 to 30 July 2019.
    • At its 3494th meeting, on 30 July 2019, the Commission decided to refer draft conclusions 1 to 3, as contained in the Special Rapporteur’s first report, to the Drafting Committee, taking into account the views expressed in the plenary.
    • At its 3503rdmeeting, on 7 August 2019, the Chair of the Drafting Committee presented an interim oral report of the Drafting Committee on draft conclusion 1, provisionally adopted by the Drafting Committee. The report was presented for information only.
    • At its 3507thmeeting, on 9 August 2019, the Commission requested the Secretariat to prepare a memorandum surveying the case law of inter-State arbitral tribunals and international criminal courts and tribunals of a universal character, as well as treaties, which would be particularly relevant for its future work on the topic.
  • Discussion in Plenary: 3488th, 3489th, 3490th, 3491st, 3492nd, 3493rd, 3494th (from 23 to 30 July 2019), 3503rd (7 August 2019) and 3507th (9 August 2019) meetings.
  • ILC Report, A/74/10, 2019, chap. IX, paras. 202–262
  • See the website of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly and the topical summary of debate in the Sixth Committee (A/CN.4/734)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its seventy-second session, 26 April–4 June and 5 July–6 August 2021
    • At the present session, the Commission considered the Special Rapporteur’s second report (A/CN.4/741 and Corr.1). In his second report, the Special Rapporteur addressed the identification of general principles of law in the sense of Article 38, paragraph 1 (c), of the Statute of the International Court of Justice, and proposed six draft conclusions. He also made suggestions for the future programme of work on the topic. The Commission also had before it the memorandum it had requested from the Secretariat surveying the case law of inter-State arbitral tribunals and international criminal courts and tribunals of a universal character, as well as treaties, which would be particularly relevant for its future work on the topic (A/CN.4/742).
    • The Commission considered the Special Rapporteur’s second report at its 3536th, 3538th, 3539th, and 3541st to 3546th meetings, from 12 to 21 July 2021.
    • At its 3546th meeting, on 21 July 2021, the Commission decided to refer draft conclusions 4 to 9, as contained in the Special Rapporteur’s second report, to the Drafting Committee, taking into account the views expressed in the plenary debate.
    • At its 3557th meeting, on 3 August 2021, the Commission considered the report of the Drafting Committee (A/CN.4/L.955 and Add.1) on draft conclusions 1 (in French and Spanish), 2, 4 and 5, provisionally adopted by the Committee at the session. At the same meeting, the Commission provisionally adopted draft conclusions 1, 2 and 4, and took note of draft conclusion 5. At its 3561st and 3563rd meetings, on 5 and 6 August 2021, the Commission adopted the commentaries to draft conclusions 1, 2 and 4 provisionally adopted at the session.
  • Discussion in Plenary: 3536th, 3538th, 3539th, and 3541st, 3542nd, 3543rd, 3544th, 3545th, 3546th (12 to 21 July 2021), 3557th (3 August 2021), 3561st and 3563rd (5 and 6 August 2021) meetings.
  • ILC Report, A/76/10, 2019, chap. VIII, paras. 165–239
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its seventy-third session, 18 April to 3 June and from 4 July to 5 August 2022
    • The Commission considered the Special Rapporteur’s third report (A/CN.4/753), in which the Special Rapporteur discussed the issue of transposition (Part One), general principles of law formed within the international legal system (Part Two), and the functions of general principles of law and their relationship with other sources of international law (Part Three). The Special Rapporteur proposed five draft conclusions. He also made suggestions for the future programme of work on the topic (Part Four).
    • At its 3585th meeting, on 1 June 2022, the Commission provisionally adopted draft conclusion 5, which had been provisionally adopted by the Drafting Committee at the seventy-second session.
    • The Commission considered the Special Rapporteur’s third report at its 3587th to 3592nd meetings, from 4 to 12 July 2022. At its 3592nd meeting, on 12 July 2022, the Commission decided to refer draft conclusions 10 to 14, as contained in the third report, to the Drafting Committee, taking into account the views expressed in the plenary debate.
    • At its 3605th meeting, on 29 July 2022, the Commission considered the report of the Drafting Committee (A/CN.4/L.971) on the consolidated text of draft conclusions 1 to 11, provisionally adopted by the Committee. The Committee provisionally adopted draft conclusions 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11.
    • At its 3605th meeting, on 29 July 2022, the Commission provisionally adopted draft conclusions 3 and 7, and took note of draft conclusions 6, 8, 9, 10 and 11.
    • At its 3605th to 3612th meetings, from 29 July to 5 August 2022, the Commission adopted the commentaries to draft conclusions 3, 5 and 7, provisionally adopted at the session.
  • Discussion in Plenary: 3585th (1 June 2022), 3587th, 3588th, 3589th, 3590th, 3591st, 3592nd (4 to 12 July 2022), 3605th, 3606th, 3607th, 3608th, 3609th, 3610th, 3611th and 3612th (29 July to 5 August 2022) meetings.
  • ILC Report, A/77/10, 2021, chap. VIII, paras. 88–149

General Assembly Action

  • Resolution 74/186 of 18 December 2019
    • Drew the attention of Governments to the importance for the International Law Commission of having their views by 31 December 2019 on the various aspects of the topics on the agenda of the Commission, in particular on all the specific issues identified in chapter III of its report, regarding general principles of law.
  • See the website of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly and the topical summary of debate in the Sixth Committee (A/CN.4/734)
  • Resolution 75/135 of 15 December 2020
    • Drew the attention of Governments to the importance for the International Law Commission of having their views by 31 December 2020 on the various aspects of the topics on the agenda of the Commission, in particular on all the specific issues identified in chapter III of its report, including general principles of law.
  • See the website of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly and the topical summary of debate in the Sixth Committee (A/CN.4/734/Add.1)
  • Resolution 76/111 of 9 December 2021
    • Drew the attention of Governments to the importance for the International Law Commission of having their views by 31 December 2021 on the various aspects of the topics on the agenda of the Commission, in particular on all the specific issues identified in chapter III of its report, including general principles of law.
  • See the website of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly and the topical summary of debate in the Sixth Committee (A/CN.4/746)

Final Outcome

Work in progress