The first years of the Legal Committee
The Comité International Technique d’Experts Juridiques Aériens (CITEJA) was created pursuant to a recommendation adopted at the First International Conference on Private Air Law, held in Paris in 1925, to develop a code of private international air law through the preparation of draft international conventions for final adoption at periodic international conferences on private air law. Four International Conferences on Private Air Law were held until the war interrupted the work of CITEJA and further unification of private air law.
In pursuance of the recommendation made by the delegates to the Chicago Conference held in 1944 with regard to the resumption of the work of the CITEJA and the desirability of coordinating the activities of CITEJA with those organizations within the field of public international law, the 14th Plenary Session of CITEJA, i.e., the first session to be held since the outbreak of the war, was convened in Paris from 22 to 29 January 1946; thirty-two countries were represented at that session. It adopted several resolutions taking into consideration the creation of the Provisional International Civil Aviation (PICAO) in 1945, and agreed in principle to a liaison and cooperation with PICAO and to transmit to the Council of PICAO the drafts on international air law conventions. However, CITEJA wished to remain with its own secretariat, annual budget, rules of procedure, and Contracting States.
The 1st Interim Assembly of PICAO, held at Montreal from 21 May to 7 June 1946, adopted Resolution 31 foreseeing the establishment of a Permanent Committee on International Air Law (i.e., a Legal Committee) after the creation of ICAO. CITEJA fully agreed with the view of PICAO Assembly and held its last working meeting (i.e., the 15th Plenary Session) at Cairo from 14 to 19 November 1946, where it recommended that a Committee on International Air Law be established within ICAO. The 1st Session of the ICAO Assembly, held in Montreal from 6 to 27 May 1947, adopted Resolution A1-46 creating the Legal Committee as a permanent body of the Organization replacing the CITEJA. At the same time of the 1st Assembly, CITEJA held its final meeting and decided on its dissolution. Thus, the permanent Legal Committee came into being on 23 May 1947; it was a committee of the Assembly, but operated largely under the direction of the Council. It was comprised of legal experts appointed by the Member States. The Legal Committee held its first full session in Brussels from 10 to 25 September 1947. Since its establishment by the First Session of the ICAO Assembly in 1947, the ICAO Legal Committee has been at the forefront of studying air law issues, developing air law instruments and updating them as needed when circumstances change.
Under the direction of the Council, the main duties and functions of the Legal Committee are:
1. To make recommendations on matters relating to public international air law;
2. To study problems relating to private air law affecting international civil aviation;
3. To prepare drafts of international air law conventions.
Constitution of the Legal Committee – 23 May 1947.
The Legal Committee may establish Sub-Committees, Working Groups, Task Forces, etc. The Procedure for approval of draft conventions on international air law was approved by the 40th Assembly held in 2019 (Assembly Resolution A40-28, Appendix B). Any convention or treaty which the Legal Committee considers as ready for presentation to States as a final draft is to be transmitted to the ICAO Council. Such drafts, after comments and circulation to States, are considered with a view of approval by a Diplomatic Conference or International Conference on Air Law, convened by the Council. The resulting legal instrument is then open for signature at the close of such conference. ICAO has been very productive in international law-making and the Legal Committee since 1947 has prepared many drafts which led to the adoption of air instruments.
Emblem of the Legal Seminar Held in Seoul
It is important to promote the ratification of the legal instruments and their main features; their benefits should be highlighted as much as possible. The Organization is actively promoting the ratification of the adopted aviation treaties through legal seminars and the Global Aviation Training Section (GAT) international air law course where students can benefit from the experience of ICAO Legal Bureau staff. These matters are also raised on a regular basis by ICAO leadership during bilateral meetings with high-level State officials.
In April 2022, ICAO celebrated the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the Legal Committee. The theme of this anniversary was: Building the Global Legal Regime for Civil Aviation. Since its inception, the Legal Committee has prepared some 24 international air law treaties in the fields of aviation safety and security, liability and aircraft finance, as well as some amendments to the Convention; many of these have received universal acceptance. On the occasion of the three-day Legal Seminar held in Seoul, Republic of Korea from 12 to 14 April 2022, a dinner of over 40 guests commemorated this anniversary on the evening of 12 April 2022; each guest was offered a picture frame (see below) with the souvenir sheet prepared by the Korean Post Office to mark the 70th anniversary of Korea’s adhesion to the Chicago Convention. On the third day of the Legal Seminar, an Industrial Tour was organized for the foreign participants only.
The forty-first session of the Assembly, held in Montreal from 27 September to 7 October 2022, highlighted the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Legal Committee of the ICAO Council, a body which acts as the ‘first responder’ to any legal issue that falls before ICAO, be it contentious issues such as conflict of interest, data protection laws in air transport or unmanned aircraft or the need to discuss a new treaty addressing private air carrier liability. Assembly Resolution A41-5
a) noted that since its inception the ICAO Legal Committee has prepared draft instruments which led to the adoption of 24 international air law treaties in the areas of air carrier and aircraft liability, aircraft finance and aviation safety and security;
b) emphasized the essential role that the ICAO Legal Committee has played in the development and codification of international air law since its inception in 1947 and
c) reiterated the need for the ICAO Legal Committee to continue to take a leadership role to study new and emerging issues affecting air law and promote the development and codification of international air law, and thereby strengthen the legal framework governing international civil aviation.
Picture taken during the dinner commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Legal Committee (1947-2022).
The Post Office of the Republic of Korea released a miniature sheet during the event to commemorate the 70th anniversary of its adherence to the Chicago Convention (see link at Korea – 70th Anniversary); its design was used as the emblem on the presentation material of the Legal Seminar.
Souvenir sheet prepared by the Korean Post Office to mark the 70th anniversary
of the adhesion of Korea to the Chicago Convention.
Since 1947, the Legal Committee has considered questions of both private and public international air law. Its constitution has been amended slightly since 1947, and its annual sessions rarely coincide with the meetings of the ICAO Assembly. The Legal Committee, along with the Air Navigation Commission and the Air Transport Committee became the permanent central committees of ICAO. The Legal Committee held 38 Sessions over 75 years (1947-2022) and continues to take a leadership role in the Organization to study new and emerging issues affecting air law. The 38th Session (Virtual/Online) was held from 22 to 25 March 2022.
Tokyo, JAPAN - 12 to 25 September 1957
Stationery Card - Eleventh Session of the Legal Committee
The picture in the green circle on the 5-yen postal card shows the Parliament Building in Tokyo. The cancellation is applied vertically, as the postcard is in portrait format.
The postmark on the postcard show: 32. 9. 12. With the year 1873, the Gregorian calendar was introduced to Japan. While the Christian way of numbering years is commonly used in Japan today, a parallel numbering system was also frequently applied for years according to the reigns of emperors. The year 1957, which happened to be the 32nd year of the reign of the emperor Hirohito, also known as Emperor Shōwa (his reign started in 1926), was called Shōwa 32.
List of treaties prepared by the Legal Committee as of April 2022.
Credit to Michael Gill, Director, ICAO Legal Bureau.