Sixth Committee (Legal) — 72nd session

Effects of armed conflicts on treaties (Agenda item 86)


Summary of work

Background (source: A/72/100)

At its sixty-sixth session, in 2011, the General Assembly, under the item entitled “Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its sixty-third session”, considered chapter VI of the report of the Commission which contained the draft articles on effects of armed conflicts on treaties together with a recommendation that the Assembly take note of the draft articles and that it consider, at a later stage, the elaboration of a convention on the basis of the draft articles. The Assembly took note of the articles, the text of which was annexed to resolution 66/99, and commended them to the attention of Governments without prejudice to the question of their future adoption or other appropriate action (resolution 66/99).

At its sixty-ninth session, in 2014, the General Assembly once again commended the articles on the effects of armed conflicts on treaties to the attention of Governments without prejudice to the question of their future adoption or other appropriate action. It requested the Secretary-General to invite Governments to submit written comments on any future action regarding the articles. The Assembly decided to include the item in the provisional agenda of its seventy-second session, with a view to examining, inter alia, the question of the form that might be given to the articles (resolution 69/125).

Consideration at the seventy-second session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 17th, 28th and 29th meetings, on 20 October and on 3 and 6 November 2017, respectively (see A/C.6/72/SR.17, 28 and 29).

Statements were made by the representatives of Algeria (on behalf of the African Group), Finland (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Australia, Sudan, Singapore, the Russian Federation, El Salvador, the United States of America, Bangladesh, South Africa, Israel, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Uruguay, Estonia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Greece and Portugal.

Several delegations, while emphasizing the primacy of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, noted that the articles offered useful guidance to States. Delegations expressed their support for the general principle as contained in article 3, namely that armed conflicts do not ipso facto terminate or suspend the operation of treaties. Some delegations considered the general principle to reflect customary international law.

A number of delegations stated that the definition of armed conflicts in article 2(b) deviated from the customary definition in international humanitarian law. Delegations disagreed on whether the articles should apply to non-international armed conflicts. Differing views were also expressed with regard to the indicative list of treaties in the annex to the articles, with some delegations supporting the inclusion of the list, while others preferring general criteria of types of treaties to which the articles would apply.

With regard to the future form of the Articles, some delegations suggested convening a working group to address outstanding issues, with a view to a possible convention. Other delegations considered that the articles were most useful in their current form and stated that it was not necessary to turn them into a legally binding instrument.

Archived videos of plenary meetings

Video   17th meeting (20 October 2017, 10:00am – 1:00pm)

Video   28th meeting (3 November 2017, 10:00am – 1:00pm)

Video   29th meeting (6 November 2017, 10:00am – 1:00pm)

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 28th meeting, on 3 November, the representative of the Czech Republic, on behalf of the Bureau, introduced a draft resolution entitled “Effects of armed conflicts on treaties” (A/C.6/72/L.15).

At its 29th meeting, on 6 November, the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/72/L.15 without a vote.

Under the terms of this draft resolution, the Assembly would express its appreciation to the International Law Commission for its continuing contribution to the codification and progressive development of international law; emphasize the value of the articles on the effects of armed conflicts on treaties in providing guidance to States and invite States to use the articles as a reference whenever appropriate; and decide to revert to the question of the effects of armed conflicts on treaties at an appropriate time.

Subsequent action taken by the General Assembly

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