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Law - Legal Citation Guide

Guide to help with legal citation for the most common situations.

International Law Sources

This guide will help you with legal citation for the most common types of international law materials.  For additional guidance, consult the selective listing of sources provided on the introductory page of this Legal Citation Guide.

As well, when citing law journal articles, textbooks, and other sources of scholarly ‘teachings’ pertaining to international law, follow the general format and examples provided in the relevant section of this Citation Guide.

Treaties and Other International Agreements

General format:

Treaty title, Parties (if applicable), date of signature, treaty source designation, optional treaty source | pinpoint reference (date of entry into force and optional information).

See further explanation below the following examples.

Examples:

Bilateral

Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries, United States and Canada, 10 September 1954, Can TS 1955 No 19, 6 UST 2836 (entered into force 11 October 1955).

Multilateral

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 19 December 1966, 999 UNTS 171, Can TS 1976 No 47 (entered into force 23 March 1976) [ICCPR].

Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 18 April 1961, 500 UNTS 95, Can TS 1966 No 29 arts 7-9 (entered into force 24 April 1964, accession by Canada 25 June 1966) [VCDR].

Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization, 15 April 1994, 1867 UNTS 154 (entered into force 1 January 1995) [Marrakesh Agreement].

 

Title:

Italicize the treaty title and, if applicable, shorten the names of signing parties included in the title (e.g. use United States, not United States of America).  Note that it is also appropriate, if you prefer, to use roman typeface, rather than italics, for treaty titles provided that you are consistent throughout your document.

Parties:

Include the names of the parties to a bilateral treaty, if they are not indicated in the treaty title.  It is not necessary to list the parties to a multilateral treaty.  Include this information in parentheses, at the end of the citation, if relevant.

Date:

Include the date when the treaty was first signed or opened for signature.

Treaty Source:

When citing a Treaty source use the following guidelines, in the priority given:

Primary international treaty series - e.g. UNTS (United Nations Treaty Series), LNTS (League of Nations Treaty Series), CTS (Consolidated Treaty Series).

Official treaty series of one of the state parties - e.g.  ATS (Australian Treaty Series), Can TS (Canada Treaty Series), UKTS (United Kingdom Treaty Series), UST (United States Treaties and Other International Agreements), US Stat (Statutes at Large).

Other international treaty series - e.g. British and Foreign State Papers.

Optional Treaty Source:

It is optional to include a parallel citation to another treaty source.  If a treaty is not published in an official source, provide a citation to an unofficial source such as ILM (International Legal Materials).

Pinpoint:

If you wish to refer to a particular treaty article, articles or page, use the designation  ‘art’, ‘arts’, or at, as appropriate.

Date of Entry into Force and Optional Information:

Include the date of entry into force, if available, and any optional additional information, in parentheses.

Subsequent References:

A shortened title may be used for subsequent references to a treaty or international agreement.  Place the short title in brackets at the end of the citation.

 

Note:  The American Society of International Law provides a useful guide to treaties and other   international agreements at <http://www.eisil.org> and includes citation information for sources under the ‘More information’ links for Primary Documents.

Cases: World Court / ICJ

The terms ICJ and World Court are used interchangeably.  The Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ), 1922-1945, was dissolved in 1946 and replaced by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), 1946-present.     

PCIJ Cases – General format:

Case Name (Parties, if any) (year), Court Document Type, reporter (series) Number of case.

See further explanation below the following examples.

Examples:

Legal Status of Eastern Greenland (Denmark v Norway) (1933), PCIJ (Ser A/B) No 53.

Case Concerning the Delimitation of the Territorial Waters between the Island of Castellorizo and the Coasts of Anatolia, Order of 26 January 1933, PCIJ (Ser A/B) No 51.

Customs Regime between Germany and Austria (1931), Advisory Opinion, PCIJ (Ser A/B) No 41 at 5.

 

ICJ Cases – General format:

Case Name (Parties), Court Document Type, [year of reporter] Reporter | first page.

Examples:

Corfu Channel Case (United Kingdom v Albania), Merits, [1949] ICJ Rep 4.

Reservations to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Advisory Opinion, [1951] ICJ Rep 15 at 21.

  • In advisory opinions, no parties are listed. 

Military and Paramilitary Activities in and Against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v United States), [1986] ICJ Rep 14.

Territorial and Maritime Dispute (Nicaragua v Colombia), 19 November 2012, ICJ General List No 124 <http://www.icj.cij.org> accessed 25 July 2014.

 

Case Name:

Italicize the case name provided in the official reporter.

Parties:

Include the names of the parties involved, in parentheses, separated by “v”, if not indicated in the case name, and italicize the names.

Year:

For decisions of the Permanent Court of International Justice, include the year of decision in parentheses.  If referring to an order, include the full date, but do not use parentheses.

Year of Reporter:

For decisions of the International Court of Justice, include the year of the reporter in brackets, after the Court Document Type.  If referring to an order, include the full date, but do not use brackets or parentheses.

Court Document Type:

Include the type of court document (such as Preliminary Objection, Advisory Opinion, Order, etc.)

Reporter (Series):

Decisions and other documents of the PCIJ are published in seven series lettered A to F, including A/B.  Indicate the series when citing PCIJ documents.

When citing a judgment, advisory opinion or order of the ICJ, cite to the official reporter, the Reports of Judgments, Advisory Opinions and Orders; abbreviate as:  ICJ Rep.

  • Cite to the Court’s website for judgments, orders and opinions not yet published.

Cases: European Union Courts

When citing a case before the Court of Justice of the European Union (formerly the Court of Justice of the European Communities) or the General Court (formerly the Court of First Instance), use the following elements.

General format:

Case Name, Number of case, [Year of Reporter] Reporter | first page, Parallel Citation.

See further explanation below the following examples.

Examples:

Commission v Poland, C-227/07, [2008] ECR I-8403 at I-8410.

MCI v Commission, T-310/00, [2004] ECR II-3253.

 

Case name:

Where the Commission, Council or Parliament of the European Union is one of the parties, abbreviate the name as Commission, Council or Parliament, as appropriate, and italicize the case name.

Case number:

Include C- to indicate a decision of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) or its former body, if available; include T- to indicate a decision of the General Court or its former body.

Year of reporter:

Include the year of the reporter in brackets.

Reporter:

Cite to the official reporter, the Reports of Cases before the Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance; abbreviate as: ECR.

First page:

Precede a reference to the first page number by either I, to indicate decisions of the Court of Justice or II, to indicate decisions of the General Court or its former body.

Parallel citation:

Include a parallel citation to the Common Market Law Reports (CMLR) or Common Market Reporter (CMR), if available.

Cases: European Court of Human Rights

In 1999, the current European Court of Human Rights replaced the former European Court of Human Rights and the European Commission on Human Rights.

When citing current or prior decisions of these bodies, include the following elements, as appropriate.

See further explanation below the following examples.

General format: 

(1999 - )

Case Name, (Optional Information) application Number, [year of Reporter] Volume number | Reporter | first page, Parallel Citation.

Examples:

Thoma v Luxembourg, No 38432/97, [2001] III ECHR 67, 36 EHRR 21.

EG v United Kingdom, No 41178/08, [2011] ECHR 846, 54 EHRR 1.

(Pre-1999)

Case Name (year of decision), volume number | Reporter | first page, Parallel citation.

Examples:

Jersild v Denmark [GC], (1994), 298 ECHR Ser A, 19 EHRR 1.

  • Add [GC] after the case name, if the judgment was given by the Grand Chamber of the Court.

Y v Netherlands, No 7245/32, (1982), 32 Eur Comm’n HR DR 345.

 

Note:  In addition, the Court has published citation guidelines and examples at  <http://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Note_citation_ENG.pdf>

 

Case Name:

Indicate the names of the Parties in italics. 

Optional Information:

As indicated by the Court’s citation guidelines mentioned above, optional information that may be added in parentheses after the case name  includes:  (dec) for a decision on admissibility; (preliminary objections) for a judgment concerning preliminary objections; (just satisfaction) for a judgment concerning only just satisfaction; (revision) for a judgment concerning revision; (interpretation) for a judgment concerning interpretation; (striking out) for a judgment striking the case out; (friendly settlement) for a judgment concerning a friendly settlement.

Application number:

Include the case application number for decisions rendered after 1999.  Include the case application number for earlier decisions, if available.

Year:

Include the year of the reporter in brackets, for decisions published in the current official reporter, the ECHR.

Include the year of the decision in parentheses, for decisions published in the earlier reporters.

Volume Number:

Indicate the volume number of the reporter, if available.  From 2008 onwards, the official reporter does not have volume numbers.

Reporter:

Cite cases before the European Court of Human Rights to the official reporter, the Reports of Judgments and Decisions of the European Court of Human Rights; abbreviate as:  ECHR.

Earlier decisions were reported in a number of print collections. Cite earlier decisions of the Court or the former European Commission on Human Rights to one of the official reporters:

  • European Court of Human Rights, Series A:  Judgments and Decisions; abbreviate as: ECHR Ser A;
  • Collections of Decisions of the European Commission on Human Rights; abbreviate as: Eur Comm’n HR CD;
  • Decisions and Reports of the European Commission of Human Rights; abbreviate as: Eur Comm’n HR DR.  

Parallel Citation:

Provide a parallel citation to the European Human Rights Reports (EHRR) or the Yearbook of the European Convention on Human Rights (YB Eur Conv HR), if available.

 

Note:  Jurisprudence and publications of the European Court of Human Rights, the European Commission of Human Rights and the Committee of Ministers (resolutions) are available in the Court’s case database (HUDOC), accessible at <http://www.echr.coe.int>.

United Nations

The United Nations has a complex publishing system.  The most basic type of publication is a UN document, which is a document submitted to a UN body for consideration, usually in connection with an item on its agenda.  Each UN document has a UN Document Symbol.  The term UN Publications, however, refers to any written materials issued by the United Nations to the general public.  These publications do not have UN Document Symbols.

When citing United Nations materials, provide as much information as possible, to assist the reader in locating the source cited.  As well, be consistent in your citation style.

For additional citation guidance, consult the selective listing of sources provided on the introductory page of this Legal Citation Guide.

Note: The Chicago Manual of Style points to The Bluebook:  A Uniform System of Citation for detailed guidance on the citation of UN materials.

UN Documents

Official Records:  When citing the meeting records, resolutions, decisions or reports of a major UN body or subsidiary body, cite to the Official Records, which also include supplements and annexes.

UN Documents: Meetings and Verbatim Records

General format:

UN Body and OR designation, Session number, Meeting number, UN Document Number, Date or Year of document (if relevant) pinpoint.

See further explanation below the following examples.

Examples:

UNGAOR, 56th Sess, 1st Plen Mtg, UN Doc A/56/PV.1 (12 September 2001).

UNSCOR, 59th Sess, 4893rd Mtg, UN Doc S/PV.4893 (15 January 2004).

 

UN Body and Official Records Designation:

Include the UN designation at the beginning; abbreviate the name of the principal UN organ and, if appropriate, include a subdivision of the organ; add OR at the end, to indicate that the document is part of the Official Records of the United Nations.  

The principal organs of the UN include:  the General Assembly (GA); the Security Council (SC); the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC); the Trusteeship Council (TC); Secretariat (ST)

UN Document Number:

Include the UN document number after the meeting information. This unique identifier or document symbol is generally found on the top right corner of an official UN document and is made up of a combination of letters and numbers.  The first letter(s) indicates the Main UN organ.  Examples include: A/ for General Assembly; E/ for Economic and Social Council; S/ for Security Council.

UN Documents: Resolutions, Decisions, Reports

UN resolutions, decisions and reports of a principal organ or subsidiary body are published in supplements to the Official Records.  When citing these materials, use elements of the following general format, as appropriate.

General format:

Author (if applicable),Title (if applicable),  Resolution or Decision number, UN Body and OR Designation, Session number or year, Supplement number, UN Document number (Date or Year) pinpoint.

See further explanation below the following examples.

Examples:

GA Res 832 (IX), UNGAOR, 9th Sess, Supp No 21, UN Doc A/2890 (21 October 1954) 19.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, GA Res 217A (III), UNGAOR, 3rd Sess, Supp No 13, UN Doc A/810 (1948) 71.

  • If a resolution is better known by its title, include the popular name of the resolution in italics.

SC Res 508, UNSCOR, 37th Year, UN Doc S/INF/38 (5 June 1982) 5.

GA Dec 62/557, UNGAOR, 62rd Sess, Supp No 49, (Vol III), UN Doc A/63/49 (15 September 2008).

UNGA, Report of the Special Committee on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation Among States, UNGAOR, 25th Sess, Supp No 18, UN Doc A/8018 (1970).

Report of the International Law Commission, UNGAOR, 63rd Sess, Supp No 10, UN Doc  A/63/10 (2008).

  • Note that the author information is not required, as it is part of the title of the report.

Author:

When citing a report of a UN body or subcommittee, include the name of the body and subcommittee and abbreviate the author information.  If the report is the product of a UN conference or lesser known committee, provide the full name. 

Title:

 Include the title of a UN decision or report in italics, if applicable.

Resolution or Decision Number:

Abbreviate the relevant UN Body and include the number of the resolution or decision.

UN Body and OR Designation:

Include the UN designation at the beginning; abbreviate the name of the principal UN organ and, if appropriate, include a subdivision of the organ; add OR at the end, to indicate that the document is part of the Official Records of the United Nations.

Session Number or Year:

Indicate the relevant session number or year.

Supplement Number:

Include the supplement number of the Official Record or relevant annex item number, as appropriate.

UN Document Number:

Include the UN document number. This unique identifier or document symbol is generally found on the top right corner of an official UN document and is made up of a combination of letters and numbers.

UN Documents Online

To locate and verify citation information for documents from the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, and the Secretariat, access the UN Documentation Center <http://www.un.org/en/documents/>.

To locate and verify citation information, if you have the UN document symbol for a particular document, access the UN Official Document System (ODS) <http://documents.un.org>.  This database covers all types of official UN documentation from 1993 onward.  In addition, some older documents are added to the system on a regular basis.  The system allows for both simple and advanced searching.

If you do not know the UN document symbol for a particular publication that you want to cite, the United Nations Bibliographic Information System (UNBISNET) < http://unbisnet.un.org> provides a catalogue of UN documents and publications indexed by the UN Dag Hammarskjold Library.  It is another useful online resource for citation information.

Note:  If you are citing a UN document from an online source -

“Authors should exercise caution when including URLs for official United Nations documents.  URLs generated by the Official Document System (ODS) do not work.  Authors can generate working URLs by adding the document symbol to http://undocs.org, e.g. http://undocs.org/A/RES/67/97.”  (Dag Hammarskjold Library)

Example:

UNGA, Towards an Arms Trade Treaty:  Establishing Common International Standards for the Import, Export and Transfer of Conventional Arms: Note by the Secretary General, UNGAOR, 63rd Sess, UN Doc A/63/334 (26 August 2008) <undocs.org/A/63/334> accessed 7 August 2014.

UN Publications

UN publications issued for the general public have a sales number.  These numbers are created for the ordering of publications, but are not used for citation purposes.  Follow the general format and examples for books, provided in the relevant section of this Citation Guide.

Example:

United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration 1985, with Amendments as Adopted in 2008 (Vienna:  United Nations, 2008).