Interview: A Historical Look at Latin-American Contributions in the Early Years of the Hague Academy


This Summer we had the pleasure of meeting mr. Walter Arévalo from Bogotá, Colombia! Walter attended The Hague Academy in 2016 and came back this Summer to conduct research for his PhD thesis at the Peace Palace Library. We learned that the Academy not only made a lasting impression on Walter, but it also inspired him to publish an academic article on the early history of the Academy. Together with Professor Ricardo Abello, he decided to research the contributions of Latin America to international law through the lens of the Summer Courses in the early years of the Hague Academy. Few scholars have written about the history of the Academy, in particular former students, so we had to take the opportunity to interview Walter and Professor Abello about their interesting findings. Here's what they had to say.

1.What inspired you to write about the contributions of Latin American scholars to the Courses of the Hague Academy?

We were initially curious about the early contributions to international law of one of our fellow countrymen, a Colombian named Jesús María Yepes, we had a general idea of his history but we wanted to recover his ideas and bring them to the younger generations.

Yepes was a Colombian diplomat, international law professor, Senator, Delegate of Colombia at the Assembly of the League of Nations (1934–39) and Plenipotentiary of Colombia at the San Francisco Conference. As the signatory of the United Nations Charter, he proposed the second line of article 2 of the Charter, regarding good faith in the fulfillment of international obligations. Yepes was one of the most influential promoters of the Latin American ideal for an organization of states and the need for a permanent court.  In the sessions of 1930, 1934 and 1947, he delivered a series of lectures that widely assessed the question of the contribution of Latin America to the development of international law.

When we went to find his lectures in the collected courses of the Academy, we started to find the contributions of other Latin American professors of international law in the earliest courses of the Academy, and we thought it was a good way to track the general contribution of the region to international law during the early Twentieth Century.

2. Were you already quite knowledgeable about Latin-America’s contribution to International Law before you started your research? Did you make any surprising discoveries or come across things you didn’t know before?

We had a general idea of the most well-known contributions of Latin America to international law like uti possidetis iuris and certain principles regarding statehood and peace during the first six Pan American Conventions (1889-1929) but when we started to study the early twentieth century in detail thru the Courses of the Academy, we did some interesting discovering’s that we explain in the chapter, including:

  • Very few professors have had the honor of lecturing 3 or more times at the Hague Academy courses and appearing in more than one Volume of the Collected Courses, Jesus Maria Yepes, Colombian Diplomat, is part of that group that includes world renowed figures like Roberto Ago and Hans Kelsen.
  • During the first course of The Hague Academy in 1923, Francisco León de La Barra, former Secretary of State for Foreign Relations and former President of Mexico (1911), delivered a course on pacific settlement of disputes, the first of its kind at The Academy. It reflected the views of Latin American states regarding dispute resolution, which were later included in instruments that have been the competence instrument in many ICJ cases, such as The Pact of Bogotá.
  • The work of the Brazilian delegate to the League of Nations, Raul Fernandes, is recognized as one of the most valuable contributions within the Advisory Committee appointed by the League of Nations to work on the constitution of a permanent court leading to the creation of the PCIJ (1922–46). He championed the legal equality of states before the Court and the binding effect of its rulings as a jurisdictional mechanism not restricted to a mere arbitration. Regarding the scope of the Court’s jurisdiction, Latin American delegations also promoted the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court for all disputes involving members of the League, but this proposal was not well received by European nations. To break this deadlock, Fernandes proposed the historic article 36 (2) of the PCIJ Statute, which would later become article 36 (2) of the ICJ Statute. This article permits states to declare at any time that they recognize the Court’s jurisdiction as compulsory ipso facto and without special agreement, in relation to any other state accepting the same obligation.
  • In The Academy’s course of 1928, José Francisco Urrutia, Colombian Diplomat and Permanent Representative to the League of Nations Assembly, who later served as a Permanent Judge of the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ) at The Hague, delivered a lecture regarding the codification of international law in Latin America. Urrutia described the region as a leader in legal codification, breaking down  how many principles of international law were proclaimed by young Latin American republics over the course of six Pan-American Conferences and their resulting treaties. These included: condemnation of territorial conquest (later codified in the Organization of American States [OAS] and UN Charters),  the naturalization of foreign individuals, human rights, navigable international watercourses, reduction of armed forces, ius in bellum and the duties and rights of states in the event of civil strife. The region also advanced in terms of the codification of private international law,  and the ideal of a Pan-American Union that would later lead to the OAS, the need for a permanent world court and the call for a global effort of codification and harmonization of international law.
  • Yepes and many historians of international humanitarian law affirm that Latin American doctrine was of the utmost importance to the proclamation of many principles of ius in bello. They also viewed the 1820 Armistice and the Treaty for the Regularization of the War of the same year, between Simón Bolivar and the Spanish Commander-in-Chief, Pablo Morillo, as one of the first treaties, if not the first, to effectively codify and apply the rules of war to an ongoing conflict.

3. Why do you think this history is so important?

The presence of Latin American States during the early stages of the United Nations system and with it, the foundations of modern international law, was overwhelming, since they were a majority. This is something that has changed with the emergence of new states and the growing participation of most of the countries of the world. It is important to remember how Latin America led the forging of the current principles of international law and to think how it should recover its role in the international legal community. It is also important to show students the history of international law and how their region was directly involved in inspiring them, this helps to prove how these developments are not only an European goal.

4. Did you receive any assistance from the Academy when writing the articles? Did you consult documents from their Archives? Were you able to find out anything about the Academy’s selection process for these scholars in the early years?

We worked  with the online and hardbook versions of the Collected Courses of The Hague Academy of International Law - Recueil des Cours. Académie de Droit International de La Haye and the catalogue. The fact that all the documents since the beginning of the courses of the Academy are preserved and easy to find, was motivating and it helped us to properly review all the contributions made by Latin American scholars to international law during the early twentieth century, manifested in the chapters and discussions of those Latin American lawyers that had the opportunity to participate in The Hague Academy courses in that period as participants and lecturers

Those chapters in the Recueil des Cours. Académie de Droit International de La Haye including the lectures given by Latin American professors of the period are:

  • (Nationality – Chapter in the Courses of The Hague Academy)
  • (Mexico) León de La Barra, F., ‘La médiation et la conciliation internationales’, RCADI 1, 1923, 553–68.
  • (Venezuela) Planas-Suarez, S., ‘L'extension de la doctrine de Monroe en Amérique du Sud’, RCADI 5, 1924, 267–366.
  • (Uruguay) Guani, A., ‘La solidarité  internationale dans l'Amérique Latine’, RCADI 8, 1925, 203–340
  • (Colombia) Urrutia, F. J., ‘La codification du droit international en Amérique’, RCADI 22, 1928, 81–236
  • (Guatemala) Matos, J., ‘L'Amérique et la Société des Nations’, RCADI 28, 1929, 1–104.
  • (Brazil) Octavio, R., ‘Les sauvages américains devant le droit’, RCADI 31, 1930, 177–292.
  • (Colombia) Yepes, J. M., ‘La contribution de l'Amérique latine au développement du droit international public et privé’, RCADI 32, 1930, 691–800.
  • (Colombia) Yepes, J. M., ‘Les problèmes fondamentaux du droit des gens en Amérique’, RCADI, 47, 1934, 1–144.
  • (Colombia) Yepes, J. M., Les accords régionaux et le droit international, RCADI 71, 1947, 227–344.

5.Was it difficult to get the article published? Were you approached by the editors or publisher? How did it come about?

The book in which the article was published was a contribution between many institutions led by the editors Paula Wojcikiewicz Almeida, Jean-Marc Sorel, including Fundação Getulio Vargas Law School in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Université Paris 1, France and the Latin American Society of International law.

6. What do you hope this book will achieve? Do have some final thoughts or would you like to add something to the interview?

The book is intended to show the relevance of the latin American cases and doctrine has had in the development of international law, we hope it will show professionals around the world the relevance and the continuous activity of the region in the construction of the building blocks of the international legal order.

The article titled 'The Influence of the Latin American Doctrine on International Law : The Rise of Latin American Doctrines at The Hague Academy during the Early Twentieth Century was published in the book 'Latin America and the International Court of Justice'  and is available in the Peace Palace Library.


The article recreates the emergence of influential international law doctrines that have had their birthplace in Latin America and have impacted the whole corpus of international law. It presents a recollection of the courses given by Latin American scholars at The Hague Academy of International Law during the early twentieth century, promoting Latin American doctrines and the continent’s proposals for the future organization of a growing international community. It reviews the legal practices and doctrines emerged from Latin America during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which have grown beyond regional doctrine and ended up influencing the development of modern institutions of international law



Ricardo Abello-Galvis, Master in international law and international relations of the Institut de Hautes Etudes Internationales Geneva, Switzerland, is Principal Professor of Public International Law of the Universidad del Rosario Law School in Bogotá, Colombia. He is a Member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration – PCA (2014–2019) and Agent for the Republic of Colombia before the Interamerican Court of Human Rights for the Request of an advisory Opinion regarding environment and human rights. Director/Editor of the ACDI – Anuario Colombiano de Derecho Internacional – Colombian Yearbook of International Law; and Former President of the Colombian Academy of International Law.

Walter Arevalo-Ramirez, LLM. Professor of Public International Law Universidad del Rosario Law School in Bogotá, Colombia and Doctoral student. Master in International Law (summa cum laude) and research assistant at Stetson University College of Law (USA)(2013-2014), received a scholarship for the external program of The Hague Academy of International Law Diploma in Maritime Spaces, watercourses and international law. Fellow of the United Nations International Law Fellowship Programme of the Codification Division of the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs (2016). Visiting Phd student at the Peace Palace Library, the Arctic University of Norway (Center for the Law of the Seas) and the iCourts university of Copenhagen (2017). and Doctoral student (Law). Member of the Colombian Yearbook of International Law. Director of the Latin American Network of International Law Journals.