International Law Commission International Law Commission

Last update: December 11, 2019

Summaries of the Work of the International Law Commission

Peremptory norms of general international law (Jus cogens)

* At its sixty-ninth session, in 2017, the Commission decided to change the title of the topic from “jus cogens” to “peremptory norms of general international law (jus cogens).

See also: Analytical Guide | Texts and Instruments

At its sixty-seventh session, in 2015, the International Law Commission decided to include the topic "Jus cogens" in its programme of work, on the basis of the recommendation of the Working Group on the long-term programme of work. The Commission decided 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,1 which set out the Special Rapporteur’s general approach to the topic, addressed conceptual issues relating to jus cogens (peremptory norms of international law), including their nature and definition, and proposed three draft conclusions. The report also invited the Commission to comment on its preferred approach to the topic. Upon its consideration of the first report of the Special Rapporteur, the Commission referred draft conclusions 1 and 3 to the Drafting Committee. The Commission subsequently took note of the interim report of the Drafting Committee on the topic, containing the draft conclusions it had provisionally adopted, which had been transmitted to the Commission for information only.2

At its sixty-ninth session, the Commission had before it the second report of the Special Rapporteur,3 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 Chair 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.

At its seventieth session, the Commission had before it the third report of the Special Rapporteur,4 which considered the consequences and legal effects of peremptory norms of general international (jus cogens). The Commission subsequently decided to refer draft conclusions 10 to 23, as contained in the report of the Special Rapporteur, to the Drafting Committee. The Commission subsequently 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.

At its seventy-first session, in 2019, the Commission had before it the fourth report of the Special Rapporteur,5 which addressed the questions of regional jus cogens and the inclusion of an illustrative list of peremptory norms of general international (jus cogens). One draft conclusion containing a non-exhaustive list of peremptory norms of general international law (jus cogens) was proposed. The Commission referred the proposed draft conclusion to the Drafting Committee on the understanding that the list contained therein would be moved to an annex and that it would be limited to those peremptory norms of general international law (jus cogens) that the Commission had previously referred to. On the basis of the report of the Drafting Committee, the Commission adopted the draft conclusions on peremptory norms of general international law (jus cogens) on first reading.

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.

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.6

1 See document A/CN.4/693.

2 Official Records of the General Assembly, Seventy-first Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/71/10), paras. 98–101.

3 See document A/CN.4/706.

4 See document A/CN.4/714.

5 See document A/CN.4/727.

6 General Assembly resolutions 70/236 of 23 December 2015; 71/140 of 13 December 2016; 72/116 of 7 December 2017 and 73/265 of 22 December 2018.