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Last update: December 4, 2017

Summaries of the Work of the International Law Commission

Juridical régime of historic waters, including historic bays

See also: Analytical Guide | Texts and Instruments

The first United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (1958) adopted, in paragraph 6 of article 7 of the Convention of the Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone, a provision to the effect that its rules on bays "shall not apply to so-called 'historic' bays".1 The Conference also adopted on 27 April 1958 a resolution requesting the General Assembly to arrange for the study of the juridical regime of historic waters, including historic bays.2

The General Assembly thereafter adopted resolution 1453 (XIV) of 7 December 1959, which requested the International Law Commission, as soon as it considers it advisable, to undertake the study of the question of the juridical regime of historic waters, including historic bays, and to make such recommendations regarding the matter as the Commission deems appropriate.

The Commission, at its twelfth session (1960) requested the Secretariat to undertake a study of the topic, and deferred further consideration to a future session.3 A study prepared by the Secretariat was published in 1962.4 Also in 1962, the Commission, at its fourteenth session, decided to include the topic in its programme, but without setting any date for the start of its consideration.5 At its nineteenth session (1967), the Commission examined the advisability of proceeding actively with the study of this topic. The Commission's report (which also dealt with the topic "Right of asylum") summarized the views expressed as follows:

"Most members doubted whether the time had yet come to proceed actively with either of these topics. Both were of considerable scope and raised some political problems, and to undertake either of them at the present time might seriously delay the completion of work on the important topics already under study [...]"6

1 United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 516, p. 210.

2 Official Records of the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, vol. II, Plenary Meetings, (United Nations publication, Sales No.: 58.V.4, vol. II), p. 145.

3 See Yearbook … I960, vol. II, p. 180, document A/4425, para. 40. (see Analytical Guide)

4 Ibid., 1962, vol. II, p. 1, document A/CN.4/143. (see Analytical Guide)

5 Ibid., p. 190, document A/5209, para. 60. (see Analytical Guide)

6 Ibid., 1967, vol. II, document A/6709/Rev.1, para. 45. (see Analytical Guide)