International Law Commission International Law Commission

Last update: December 10, 2019

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

Forthcoming deadlines for comments from Governments

  • 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
  • 31 December 2019 — Immunity of State officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction: information requested in Chap. III.A of A/74/10
  • 31 December 2019 — Succession of States in respect of State responsibility: information requested in Chap. III.D of A/73/10
  • 31 December 2019  — General principles of law in Chap. III.B of A/74/10
  • 31 December 2019  — Sea-level rise in relation to international law in Chap. III.C of A/74/10
  • 1 December 2020 — comments on the draft conclusions on peremptory norms of general international law (jus cogens), as adopted on first reading (2019), in Chap. V of A/74/10.
  • 1 December 2020 — comments on the draft principles on the protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts, as adopted on first reading (2019), in Chap. VI of A/74/10

Drafting Committee

The following draft articles are presently before the Drafting Committee:

  • Succession of States in respect of State responsibility (2017 & 2018): draft articles 3 and 4, 10, 11 and 2 paragraph (f), X, Y, 12, 13, 14, and 15

With regard to topics on the programme of work of the Commission, the following draft articles/conclusions/guidelines have been adopted by the Commission on the basis of reports of the Drafting Committee:

  • Immunity of State officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction
  • Protection of the atmosphere:
    • 2015: preambular paragraphs and draft guidelines 1, 2 and 5 (A/CN.4/L.851); See: Drafting Committee Chair’s statement
    • 2016: draft guidelines 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, and a preambular paragraph (A/CN.4/L.875); See: Drafting Committee Chair’s statement
    • 2017: draft guideline 9 and three preambular paragraphs (A/CN.4/L.894); See: Drafting Committee Chair’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 Chair’s statement
  • 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 Chair’s statement
    • 2016: revised text of draft principles provisionally adopted in 2015 (A/CN.4/L.870/Rev.1), see Drafting Committee Chair’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 Chair’s statement
    • 2018: draft principles 19, 20 and 21 (A/CN.4/L.911); See: Drafting Committee Chair’s statement
    • 2019: text and titles of the draft principles provisionally adopted by the Drafting Committee on first reading (A/CN.4/L.937); See Drafting Committee Chair’s statement
  • Provisional application of treaties
    • 2015: draft guidelines 1 to 3; See Drafting Committee Chair’s interim oral report
    • 2016: draft guidelines 1 to 4 and 6 to 9 (A/CN.4/L.877); See Drafting Committee Chair’s statement
    • 2017: draft guidelines 1 to 11 (A/CN.4/L.895/Rev.1); See Drafting Committee Chair’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 Chair’s statement
  • Peremptory norms of general international law (Jus cogens)
    • 2016: draft conclusions 1 and 2 [3]; See Drafting Committee Chair’s interim oral report
    • 2017: draft conclusions 1 to 7; See Drafting Committee Chair’s interim oral report
    • 2018: draft conclusions 8 and 9; See Drafting Committee Chair’s interim oral report
    • 2018: draft conclusions 10 to 14; See Drafting Committee Chair’s interim oral report
    • 2019: text of the draft conclusions and draft annex provisionally adopted by the Drafting Committee on first reading (A/CN.4/L.936); See Drafting Committee Chair’s statement
  • Succession of States in respect of State responsibility
  • General principles of law

Working and Study Groups

  • Study Group on Sea-level Rise in relation to International Law (2019)

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)
  • Evidence before international courts and tribunals (2017 report, annex B)
  • Universal criminal jurisdiction (2018 report, annex A)
  • Reparation to individuals for gross violations of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law (2019 report, annex B)
  • Prevention and repression of piracy and armed robbery at sea (2019 report, annex C)

The Commission recently concluded its work on the following topics:

Crimes against humanity (Summary | Analytical Guide)

At its sixty-sixth session, in 2014, the Commission decided to include the topic “Crimes against humanity” in its programme of work and appointed Mr. Sean D. Murphy as Special Rapporteur.

The Commission subsequently proceeded on the basis of three reports of the Special Rapporteur. At its seventy-first  session, in 2019, the Commission adopted on second reading a set of 15 draft articles and an annex, together with commentaries thereto, on on prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity. In accordance with article 23 of its statute, the Commission recommended the elaboration of a convention by the General Assembly or by an international conference of plenipotentiaries on the basis of the draft articles. (chapter IV of the 2019 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 Chair 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)

At its seventy-first session, in 2019, the Commission had before it the sixth (A/CN.4/722) and the seventh (A/CN.4/729) reports of the Special Rapporteur, which were devoted to addressing procedural aspects of immunity from foreign criminal jurisdiction. In particular, the sixth report, on which the debate was not completed at the seventieth session in 2018, provided 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. The seventh report completed the examination of the procedural aspects of immunity regarding the relationship between jurisdiction and the procedural aspects of immunity; addressed questions concerning the invocation of immunity and the waiver of immunity; examined aspects concerning procedural safeguards related to the State of the forum and the State of the official, considered the procedural rights and safeguards of the official, and proposed nine draft articles. Following the debate in plenary, the Commission decided to refer draft articles 8 to 16 to the Drafting Committee, taking into account the debate and proposals made in plenary. The Commission received and took note of the interim report of the Chair of the Drafting Committee on draft article 8 ante, which was presented to the Commission for information only (chapter VIII of the 2019 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 Commission received and considered three reports from its sixty-sixth session (2014) to its sixty-eighth session (2016). At its sixty-ninth session (2017), the Commission established a Working Group to consider the way forward in relation to the topic, as Ms. Jacobsson was no longer a member of the Commission. The Working Group recommended to the Commission the appointment of a new Special Rapporteur to assist with the successful completion of its work on the topic. The Commission decided to appoint Ms. Marja Lehto as Special Rapporteur. The Commission subsequently proceeded on the basis of two reports prepared by the Special Rapporteur.

At its seventy-first session, in 2019, the Commission proceeded on the basis of the second report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/728).The Commission adopted on first reading the draft principles on protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts, and commentaries thereto. the Commission decided, in accordance with articles 16 to 21 of its statute, to transmit the draft principles on protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts, through the Secretary-General, to Governments, international organizations, including from the United Nations and its Environment Programme, and others, including the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Environmental Law Institute, for comments and observations, with the request that such comments and observations be submitted to the Secretary-General by 1 December 2020.

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).

Peremptory norms of general 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. The Special Rapporteur submitted three reports from 2016 to 2018, which the Commission considered at its sixty-eighth to seventieth sessions (2016–2018), respectively. At its sixty-ninth session (2017), following a proposal by the Special Rapporteur in his second report,692 the Commission decided to change the title of the topic from “Jus cogens” to “Peremptory norms of general international law (jus cogens)”.

At its seventy-first session, in 2019, the Commission proceeded on the basis of the fourth report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/727).The Commission adopted on first reading the draft conclusions on peremptory norms of general international law (jus cogens) on first reading, and commentaries thereto. the Commission 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 December 2020 (chap. V of the 2019 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 Chair 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)

At its seventy-first session, in 2019, the Commission had before it the third report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/731), which addressed introductory issues, including certain general considerations, questions of reparation for injury resulting from internationally wrongful acts committed against the predecessor State as well as its nationals, and technical proposals in relation to the scheme of the draft articles. Following the debate in plenary, the Commission decided to refer draft articles 2, paragraph (f), X, Y, 12, 13, 14 and 15, and the titles of Part Two and Part Three, as contained in the third report of the Special Rapporteur, to the Drafting Committee. Upon its consideration of a first report of the Drafting Committee, the Commission provisionally adopted draft articles 1, 2 and 5, with commentaries thereto. Furthermore, the Commission took note of the interim report of the Chair of the Drafting Committee on draft articles 7, 8 and 9 provisionally adopted by the Committee, which was presented to the Commission for information only (chap. VII of the 2019 report).

General principles of law (Summary | Analytical Guide)

At its seventieth session, in 2018, the Commission decided to include the topic “General principles of law” in its programme of work and appointed Mr. Marcelo VázquezBermúdez as Special Rapporteur.

At its seventy-first session, in 2019, the Commission had before it the first report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/732), which addressed the scope of the topic and the main issues to be addressed in the course of the work of the Commission. The report also addressed previous work of the Commission related to general principles of law and provided an overview of the development of general principles of law over time, as well as an initial assessment of certain basic aspects of the topic and future work on the topic. Following the debate in plenary, the Commission decided to refer draft conclusions 1 to 3, 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 conclusion 1 provisionally adopted by the Committee, which was presented to the Commission for information only (chap. IX of the 2019 report).

Sea-level rise in relation to international law (Summary | Analytical Guide)

At its seventy-first session, in 2019, the Commission decided to include the topic in its programme of work and established a Study Group, to be co-chaired, on a rotating basis, by Mr. Bogdan Aurescu, Mr. Yacouba Cissé, Ms. Patrícia Galvão Teles, Ms. Nilüfer Oral and Mr. Juan José Ruda Santolaria. The Study Group held one meeting, at which time it agreed on its composition, methods and programme of work, based on the three subtopics identified in the syllabus. The Commission subsequently took note of the joint oral report of the Co-Chairs of the Study Group (chaps. X and XI, sect. B of the 2019 report).

Other decisions and conclusions of the Commission

At its seventy-first session, in 2019, the Commission took note of an oral report of the Special Rapporteur on the topic “Provisional application of treaties”, Mr. Juan Manuel Gómez Robledo, on the informal consultations convened to consider the draft model clauses on provisional application of treaties, and decided to annex the Special Rapporteur’s revised proposal for the draft model clauses to the report, with a view to seeking comments from Governments in advance of the commencement of the second reading of the draft Guide to Provisional Application of Treaties at the seventy-second session of the Commission (chap. XI, sect. A, and annex A of the 2019 report).

The Commission further decided to include in its long-term programme of work the topics: (a) “Reparation to individuals for gross violations of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law”; and (b) “Prevention and repression of piracy and armed robbery at sea” (chap. XI, sect. D, and annexes B and C of the 2019 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.