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Twenty-five years ago, the Allied nations gathered at San Francisco in the warming glow of victory and signed a solemn treaty giving effect to their determination “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war …” and “to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest …” Specifically, they undertook in Article 2(4) to “refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state …” They also committed themselves to “settle their international disputes by peaceful means …”
The purpose of this article is to bring up to date the present writer’s previous article on “The Depositary of International Treaties” published in this Journal, in the light of the deliberations of the United Nations Conference on the Law of Treaties in 1968 and 1969 and the changes there made in the texts. The relevant provisions now appear as Articles 76, 77 and 78 of the so-called Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, corresponding to Articles 71, 72 and 73 of the draft articles on the law of treaties of the International Law Commission.
In his policy statement of November 25, 1969, on chemical and biological warfare, President Richard M. Nixon declared that the Administration would ask the Senate for advice and consent to the ratification of the Geneva Protocol of 1925. At the same time, the President reaffirmed the renunciation by the United States of “the first use of lethal chemical weapons” and extended “this renunciation to the first use of incapacitating chemicals.” With regard to biological weapons, the President renounced the use of all biological weapons and methods of warfare, declared that the United States would confine its biological research to defensive measures, and ordered the Defense Department to make recommendations for the “disposal of existing stocks of bacteriological weapons.” On February 14, 1970, the President extended the ban on biological weapons to include toxins.
The Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice did not contain a clause regulating the procedure for its amendment. This was considered to be a “gap,” an “unfortunate lacuna.” This “gap” may or may not have been deliberate. It was certainly not a “genuine” gap. In spite of the absence of a provision on amendments, the law provided a clear though inconvenient answer to the question of how the Statute could be amended, namely, by unanimous consent of all parties to it. In 1928 proceedings for the introduction of some amendments were initiated. They were incorporated in a Protocol of Amendment in 1929. The difficulties which were encountered before the Protocol of Amendment entered into force in 1936 are now history and need not be dealt with here, the less so as they have been described in considerable detail in a recent book. The Protocol of Amendment did not remedy this defect of the original Statute. As Hudson has explained, this was due to the fact that the adhesion of the United States was proposed on condition that the Statute “shall not be amended without the consent of the United States.” Such a position could hardly be accorded to the United States unless it were also maintained for the other states which were parties.
The World Court’s recent decision in the North Sea Continental Shelf Cases is a major contribution to that branch of the theory of customary international law dealing with norm-creation by means of a treaty. The Court articulated a new methodology for determining which provisions in treaties can form the basis of universally binding customary law. As the spreading network of international conventions becomes more fine-meshed, the substantive rules of international customary law may be expected to conform more and more closely to the provisions in these conventions. The World Court has implicitly recognized this process in many prior opinions, but it was not until the Continental Shelf decision that the link between treaty and custom was focused upon with precision. I shall argue in this essay that the Court used a method which might be called the rule of manifest intent, that this method differs from a more traditional approach found in the writings of publicists, and that this new method accords well with the growing need to objectify and place upon a scientific basis the methodology by which one may determine what in fact are the rules of customary law.