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Home Posts tagged "International Law Commission"

Is the International Law Commission Elevating Subsequent Agreements and Subsequent Practice?

Published on August 30, 2018        Author: 

At its most recent (70th) session, the International Law Commission adopted two important sets of “restatements” on two important sources of international law on second reading, namely the Draft Conclusions on the Identification of Customary International Law and the Draft Conclusions on Subsequent Agreements and Subsequent Practice in Relation to the Interpretation of Treaties (see the ILC’s 2018 Report (UN Doc A/73/10) here). This post concerns the second of these restatements, subsequent agreements and subsequent practice (see Chapter IV of the Report).  In particular, this post expresses a concern about an apparent, almost surreptitious, attempt by the Commission to elevate subsequent agreements and subsequent practice as tools of interpretation to the same level as the more objective tools outlined in article 31(1) of the Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaties. The concern may seem like a storm in a cup – and I hope that is the case.  However,  there is a real possibility – a possibility which could risk the stability of treaties – that the ordinary meaning of the words of a treaty, in their context and in light of the object and purpose of the treaty could give way to ever-changing moods of States expressed through subsequent agreements and subsequent practice. If states don’t like the terms of the treaties they have adopted, they should amend it through the means provided for in the treaty or in the customary rules on amendments of treaties. Amendment through interpretation, a real likelihood if subsequent agreements and subsequent practice were elevated to an independent status of equal value – perhaps some day even greater – to ordinary meaning, in context and in light of the object and purpose, would be a dangerous course.  It is hoped that this implicit suggestion in the work of the Commission is not taken up the practice of courts in the application of article 31.

I should begin by two caveats.  First, this post, like the draft conclusions themselves, concerns only subsequent agreements and subsequent practice in relation to treaty interpretation.  Thus, what is said here does not affect the role that subsequent agreements or subsequent practice might have, say for modification of treaties in general. Second, there is, admittedly, nothing in the draft conclusions themselves that can be interpreted as the elevation of subsequent agreements and subsequent practice.  The (attempted) elevation comes in the commentaries to a number of provisions in the set of draft conclusions.  I should note, in connection with the last-mentioned caveat, that the commentaries themselves seem to have been elevated to a higher position than before – not quite on par with the draft conclusions but certainly approaching that level.  While in the past, it has been understood that the draft texts adopted by the Commission were to be read with commentaries, during the 70thsession, the Commission inserted language as the first paragraph in the general commentary of both second reading topics to emphasise this point, which had not been emphasised in this manner before. Read the rest of this entry…

 

Global Pact for the Environment: Defragging international law?

Published on August 29, 2018        Author: 

A ‘defrag’ computer program that consolidates fragmented files on a hard drive holds metaphorical attraction for international lawyers. Our encounters with international law often seem to be specific to particular legal regimes, which have a functional orientation and professional sensibility that, in the words of the International Law Commission, may be self-contained. International environmental law and human rights, for example, were developed at different times and are supported by different international and domestic institutions. Now, the United Nations is considering a proposal that promises to integrate various parts of international law, thereby improving its performance: the Global Pact for the Environment.

The draft preliminary text for the Global Pact for the Environment entrenches a right to an ecologically sound environment (Article 1), sets out a duty of states and other actors to take care of the environment (Article 2) and requires parties to integrate the requirements of environmental protection into their planning and implementation, especially to fight against climate change, and to help protect the ocean and maintain biodiversity (Article 3). These and other clauses provide a framework that follows the existing international human rights covenants – on civil and political rights and on economic, social and cultural rights – to promote a ‘third generation’ of fundamental rights. On 10 May 2018, a resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly established an ad hoc open-ended working group to analyse possible gaps in international environmental law and, if deemed necessary, to consider the scope, parameters, and feasibility of an international instrument (which could include, but is not limited to, a legally binding agreement along the lines of the Global Pact). Two co-chairs were appointed the following month. An accompanying White Paper outlines the Pact’s antecedents, which include the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. In this short post, I consider three ways in which the Pact impacts upon the interaction between regimes and ‘defragments’ international law. Read the rest of this entry…

 

70 Years of the International Law Commission: Drawing a Balance for the Future

Published on May 3, 2018        Author:  and

This post, and its sister post on OpinioJuris, mark the start of the seventieth session of the International Law Commission. Under the theme “70 years of the International Law Commission: Drawing a Balance for the Future”, commemorative events will be held on 21 May in New York and on 5-6 July in Geneva. In these two posts, Christiane Ahlborn and Bart Smit Duijzentkunst of the Codification Division of the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs, which serves as the secretariat of the Commission, place the role of the Commission in a historical context and discuss its promises and challenges moving forward.

This week the International Law Commission has started its seventieth session in New York. From its first session, in 1949, the Commission has played an indispensable role in the promotion of the “progressive development of international law and its codification”. Yet the desire to “codify” international law – to formulate and systematize rules of international law in order to avoid conflicting norms and enhance legal certainty – predates the Commission by many decades, if not centuries. An exhibit exploring the history and the achievements of the Commission is currently on display in the Visitors Lobby of the General Assembly Building at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Here are five things you may not know about the International Law Commission and the codification movement from which it emerged. Read the rest of this entry…

 

Security Council Resolutions as Evidence of Customary International Law

Published on March 1, 2018        Author: 

In 2012 the International Law Commission began to address one of the last major uncodified areas of public international law: how norms of customary law (CIL) are to be identified.  The exercise at the ILC has not been an easy one.  States commenting in 2016 on the Commission’s “draft conclusions” expressed concerns on a variety of issues.  One of the most contentious was the role of international organizations (IOs) in the creation of custom. 

The topic has been the subject of academic conferences at the University of Manchester, the University of Michigan and elsewhere, as well as a growing volume of law review commentary (see here, here, here, here and here).  And in early January, the United States submitted comments on the draft conclusions that were, to put it mildly, opposed to any role for IOs.  Closer to home, Kristen Boon, Isaac Jenkins and I have just published an article on the role of the Security Council in generating evidence of custom related to non-international armed conflicts (NIACs), an area of intense Council involvement. In this post I’ll describe the ILC’s view of IOs, the United States’ response, and then our affirmative arguments specific to the Security Council. Read the rest of this entry…

 

The Draft Articles on “The Protection of Persons in the Event of Disasters”: Towards a Flagship Treaty?

Published on December 2, 2016        Author: 

The debate held on 24 – 26 October within the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Sixth Committee concluded an intensive year for the International Law Commission (ILC) topic “The Protection of Persons in the Event of Disasters”. It followed the adoption of the related 18 Draft Articles (DAs) on their second reading, and of the Commentary (here), on the basis of the eighth report submitted by the Special Rapporteur Eduardo Valencia-Ospina and comments received on the 21 draft articles adopted in 2014.  These DAs, which have already attracted attention (e.g. herehere), will be addressed in this post, which will also take into account the proposal made by the ILC “to recommend to the General Assembly the elaboration of a convention on the basis of the draft articles” (2016 Report, para. 46) thus diverging from its trend of favoring ‘soft’ final forms for topics under exam (here). Such possibility might concretize in the near future, taking into account the draft UNGA resolution requesting Governments to submit “comments concerning the recommendation by the Commission” and to include this item in the 2018 UNGA’s agenda.

The structure of the Draft Articles

The possibility of developing a universal flagship treaty would represent a significant novelty in the area of disaster law, which is currently characterized by a fragmented legal framework. In the ‘80s UN attempts to develop a similar convention were unable to achieve consensus, and practice has continued to evolve through universal treaties only addressing specific types of disasters or forms of assistance, regional instruments with different characters in terms of efficacy and structure (here and here), an incoherent network of bilateral treaties (here), and a vast array of soft-law instruments scarcely able to influence stakeholders.

Against this multifaceted background, the Draft Articles attempt to provide a legal systematization of the main issues, their purpose being “to facilitate the adequate and effective response to disasters, and reduction of the risk of disasters, so as to meet the essential needs of the persons concerned, with full respect for their rights” (Draft Article 2). In a nutshell, this provision encompasses some of the main topics addressed, and challenges faced, in the law-making process due to diverging perspectives. Read the rest of this entry…

Filed under: Disaster Law, EJIL Analysis
 

Outcome of 2016 Elections to the International Law Commission + Trivia Questions

Published on November 5, 2016        Author: 

On Thursday the United Nations General Assembly (GA) elected the individuals who will serve in the International Law Commission (ILC) for the five year term beginning in 2017. The Commission, which is a subsidiary organ of the GA, has a mandate to assist in the codification and progressive development of international law. It is composed of 34 members who serve in their individual capacities.  The outcome of the elections held on Thursday can be viewed here. A number of excellent academic international lawyers were elected to the Commission for the first time, most notably August Reinisch (Austria), Charles Jalloh (Sierra Leone) and Claudio Grossman (Chile) who all have impressive academic credentials as well significant practical experience of international law.  The Commission will benefit from their addition. However, as is often the case with UN elections, there are some surprises in the result, with some excellent academic international lawyers also failing to be elected to the Commission, particularly Mathias Forteau (France), Chester Brown (Australia) , Tiya Maluwa (Malawi), and Marcelo Kohen (Argentina) – all of whom also have impressive academic credentials and significant practical experience of international law.

There is a very marginal improvement in the position of women on the ILC. There will be three four women on the ILC, with Patrica Galvão Teles (Portugal), Marja Lehto (Finland), and Nilüfer Oral (Turkey)  joining Concepción Escobar Hernández (Spain) who was re-elected. It is very worrying that in the history of the Commission, only 6 7 women have been members and this is the first time that 3 more than 2 women will be serving together. Still, even on the new Commission,  fewer only slightly more than 10% of its members will be women. (Update: corrections in italics because of the comments below)

One other remarkable feature of the elections just concluded was that two of those nominated for the ILC in this round were previously judges on international tribunals. Read the rest of this entry…