Other international legal instruments


Specific chapters of The Postal History of ICAO deal with the Chicago Convention, the Warsaw System on air carrier’s liability, the Rome Convention and its modernization, and aviation security, as these legal instruments saw major and progressive developments over the years. During ICAO’s lifetime, the Legal Committee has been very active and prepared many international instruments, most of which were adopted by diplomatic conferences.


The issue of aircraft ownership drew the attention of the Comité International Technique d’Experts Juridiques Aériens (CITEJA) which had prepared two draft Conventions on this subject between 1927 and 1931. In the interest of the future expansion of international civil aviation that rights in aircraft be recognized internationally, the Convention on International Civil Aviation of 1944 (also named the Chicago Convention) recommended the early adoption of a Convention dealing with the transfer of title to aircraft. The CITEJA’s drafts were studied by the ICAO Legal Committee during its first full session at Brussels from 10 to 25 September 1947; the resulting document was studied by the Legal Committee of the 2nd Session of the ICAO Assembly held in Geneva, Switzerland from 1 to 21 June 1948. The Convention on the International Recognition of Rights in Aircraft was adopted by this Assembly on 19 June 1948 and came into force on 17 September 1953. The Geneva Convention provides for the recognition by Contracting States of the Rights of property in aircraft; the Rights to acquire aircraft by purchase coupled with possession; the Rights to possession of aircraft under leases of six months or more; those rights must be constituted in accordance with the law of the Contracting State in which the aircraft was registered as to nationality at the time of their constitution, and the rights are regularly recorded in a public record of the Contracting State in which the aircraft is registered as to nationality. This Convention was the first product of ICAO’s work in air law.


It took more than half a century before a new convention was prepared that went beyond the mere recognition of rights, but aimed at the creation of an international title and facilitation of the repossession of an aircraft. The Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment and the Protocol to the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment on Matters specific to Aircraft Equipment was adopted at Cape Town on 16 November 2001 (it entered into force on 1 March 2006), at the end of the Diplomatic Conference held from 29 October to 16 November 2001, under the joint auspices of ICAO and the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT, Rome). The Aircraft Protocol was signed immediately with the treaty. The Cape Town Convention makes specific provisions for leasing and taking security over aircraft, engines, helicopters, rail and space assets and further provide creditors with specific default remedies, including remedies in the event of insolvency of the debtor (operator). It establishes an international registry for the registration of international interest in the category of mobile objects covered in the Convention. The instruments of ratification of and accession to the Convention and the Protocol are to be deposited with UNIDROIT.

This Convention shall, for a Contracting State that is a party to the Convention on the International Recognition of Rights in Aircraft, signed at Geneva on 19 June 1948 during the second Session of the ICAO Assembly (it entered into force on 17 September 1953), supersede that Convention as it relates to aircraft, as defined in this Protocol, and to aircraft objects. However, with respect to rights or interests not covered or affected by the present Convention, the Geneva Convention shall not be superseded.

This Convention shall, for a Contracting State that is a Party to the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to the Precautionary Attachment of Aircraft, signed at Rome on 29 May 1933, supersede that Convention as it relates to aircraft, as defined in this Protocol.

This Convention shall supersede the UNIDROIT Convention on International Financial Leasing, adopted on 28 May 1988 at the diplomatic conference held at Ottawa, Canada, as it relates to aircraft objects.


Diplomatic Conference to adopt a Mobile Equipment Convention and an Aircraft Protocol – 2001 (Cape Town, South Africa)

From left to right: Dr. Ludwig Weber, Director of the Legal Bureau (ICAO), Dr. Assad Kotaite, President of the ICAO Council, Mr. Antti Leinonen, Counsellor of Legislation, Ministry of Justice of Finland, and Dr. Herbert Kronke, Secretary-General (UNIDROIT).


Service cover sent from UNIDROIT to ICAO Legal Bureau. Postmarked on 12 October 1994 in the city of Vatican.

The International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT) is an independent intergovernmental Organization with its seat in Rome. Its purpose is to study needs and methods for modernizing, harmonizing and co-ordinating private and in particular commercial law as between States and groups of States and to formulate uniform law instruments, principles and rules to achieve those objectives. Set up in 1926 as an auxiliary organ of the League of Nations, the Institute was, following the demise of the League, re-established in 1940 on the basis of a multilateral agreement.