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The United Nations International Law Commission

  • Robert W. Schaaf (a1)


Those seeking information on the United Nations’ work in systematizing the rules of public international law may find it useful to examine the latest edition of The Work of the International Law Commission (4th ed., United Nations, 1988). According to this publication, (the primary source for this column), interest in the development and codification of the rules on international law may be traced back to the late 18th century and the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham, author of Principles of International Law. From this time forward there were numerous attempts at the codification of international law, but intergovernmental regulation of general legal questions originated with the Congress of Vienna (1814–1815). Thereafter, international legal rules on various subjects were developed by different diplomatic conferences. These included such subjects as the laws of war on land and sea, pacific settlement of international disputes and the regulation of postal services and telecommunications. The Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907 stimulated the movement for codification. Efforts to promote the codification and development of international law were further advanced with the 1924 (September 22) resolution of the fifth session of the League of Nations Assembly which envisaged the establishment of a standing Committee of Experts for the Progressive Codification of International Law. After having consulted member governments and the Council, the League Assembly decided in 1927 to convene a Codification Conference which took place at The Hague in the Spring of 1930. Unfortunately, the international instruments resulting from the work of the conference were only in the one field of nationality. One further step, however, was the adoption by the League Assembly on September 25, 1931 of a major resolution on codification of international law emphasizing the need to strengthen the influence of governments at each stage in the codification process.



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