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The Codification of the Law of Territorial Waters

  • Jesse S. Reeves (a1)


Judged by its inability to agree upon a convention on territorial waters, as the substance of things hoped for, the Conference for the Codification of International Law was a failure. Good may come of the Conference. It may have been a necessary preliminary stage in a very long and difficult process. Nevertheless, the fact remains that its purpose was to agree upon a convention upon territorial waters and it failed of its purpose. Usually the cause of the ill-success of a conference is lack of preparation. This failure cannot be ascribed to lack of preparation. It is unnecessary to rehearse the antecedent steps. Several years had been devoted to preparation. Governments had agreed that the subject of territorial waters was suitable and ripe for codification. In addition to the work done by the Committee of Experts and by the Preparatory Committee, the governments had answered voluminous questionnaires and had made observations upon detailed schedules of points from which had been prepared the bases of discussion. All of this work had been completed and in print months before the Conference met. Apparently nothing was left undone by the agencies of the League of Nations in order that the various governments might have ample opportunity for examination and study of the questions involved. And, it may be added, the observations of the governments were for the most part responsive and illuminating.



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1 Printed in Supplement to this Journal, Vol. XXIV (January, 1930, pp. 25-46). The official text of the bases of discussion with the responses of the governments is contained in League of Nations Document C. 74. M. 39. 1929. V, Vol. II.

2 The report and annexes are reproduced in the Supplement to this Journal.

3 League of Nations Document, C. 74. M. 39. 1929. V, Vol. II, p. 22.

4 This notwithstanding the treaty between Cuba and the United States of March 4, 1926, Article I of which is as follows: “The High Contracting Parties declare that it is their firm intention to uphold the principle that three marine miles extending from the coast line outwards and measured from low-water mark constitute the proper limits of territorial waters.” The same provision appears in the treaties with Great Britain (U. S. Treaty Series 685), Germany (U. S. Treaty Series 694), Japan (U. S. Treaty Series 807), the Netherlands (U. S. Treaty Series 712), and Panama (U. S. Treaty Series 707). Cf. Article I of the treaties with France (U.S. Treaty Series756), “ The High Contrating Parties respectively retain their rights and claims, without prejudice by reason of this agreement, with respect to the extent of their territorial jurisdiction,”and with the following: Spain (U. S. Treaty Series 749), Italy (U. S. Treaty Series 702), Sweden (U. S. Treaty Series 698), Norway (U. S. Treaty Series 689),Denmark (U. S. Treaty Series 693), and Belgium (U. S. Treaty Series 759).

5 League of Nations Document, C. 74. M. 39. 1929. V, Vol. II, p. 53

The Codification of the Law of Territorial Waters

  • Jesse S. Reeves (a1)


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