International legal grounds and legal character of law-making powers of the United Nations Transitional Administrations

Available in Russian

Author: Ruslan Kantur

DOI: 10.21128/2226-2059-2019-2-107-127

Keywords: devolution; international legal personality; law of international organizations; law-making; law-making discretion; peacekeeping operations; United Nations; United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor


The paper delves into the international legal aspects of law-making activity of the United Nations transitional administrations. It is emphasised that notwithstanding their lack of international legal personality, such administrations possess law-making powers stemming from the so-called devolution of international legal personality, which is defined as endowing a non-subject of international law by a subject of international law with powers that enable the former one to exercise the elements of international legal personality, including law-making, with the latter one retaining its capacity to be held liable, if the acceptor of the mentioned powers commits a wrongful act. It is pointed out that transitional administrations carry out their duties in specific circumstances when there is a lack of governance on a particular state territory. The sovereign duties mentioned are entrusted to such administrations by the United Nations in the name of the whole international community, with law-making powers embodying one of the forms of these duties. With reference to the ICJ judgment in Certain Phosphate Lands in Nauru, it is argued that UN transitional administrations do not possess an international legal personality distinct from that of the United Nations. The legal rules created by transitional administrations are positive, regulatory, and imperative; furthermore, they are identified as rules of international law and constitute a coherent and autonomous legal complex named lex pacificatoria. Therewith, lex pacificatoria is presumed compliant with universal peremptory norms of international law (jus cogens) binding upon all states. The discretionary powers of the UN transitional administrations, as well as their limits, are exemplified by the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET). It is concluded that the limits of discretionary powers of transitional administrations have temporary and territorial dimensions. Insofar as temporary aspects are concerned, the law-making powers of such administrations are valid unless the mandate granted thereto by the United Nations expires. In regards to a territorial dimension, transitional administrations are able to exercise law-making powers only on that territory where they are deployed and with respect to which they are entitled to the accomplishment of their duties in conformity with a mandate. Additionally, transitional administrations cannot create norms which can be contrary to universal peremptory norms of international law.

About the author: Ruslan Kantur – LL.M., Legal Advisor, Department for New Challenges and Threats, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Kantur R. (2019) Mezhdunarodno-pravovye osnovaniya i pravovaya priroda normotvorcheskoy deyatel'nosti vremennykh administratsiy OON [International legal grounds and legal character of law-making powers of the United Nations Transitional Administrations]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, vol.9, no.2, pp.107–127. (In Russian).


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