Rules of customary international law result from the practice and the opinio juris of States. All States by their behaviour can thus equally contribute to the creation of customary international law. But this is where the mismatch between theory and practice begins. For the practice of States to influence the development of customary international law, that practice must be known. Practitioners and scholars of international law frequently encounter difficulties in “finding” the practice of States other than their own. Only very few countries publish digests or repertoires of national State practice in the field of public international law in a widely accessible language. The United States of America and the United Kingdom have exerted an exceptional and, one may add, disproportionate influence on the fashioning of customary international law for the simple reason that for more than a century they have been publishing their practice in English, the modern-day lingua franca of international law.

Since the 1950s, annual reports on the practice of the Federal Republic of Germany in the field of public international law have been published in the Zeitschrift für ausländisches öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht. However, these reports have gone widely unnoticed. There is hardly any reference to German State practice in the reports of the International Law Commission, in pleadings before the International Court of Justice or before other international courts and tribunals. The same is true for non-German textbooks, monographs or articles on public international law. The main reason for this apparent non-existence of German practice is that these reports are published in German. The format of these reports also has not helped: Rather than presenting the full text or relevant extracts of documents, statements and judicial decisions, the reports largely summarize or recount developments under certain subject headings and provide further references to parliamentary and other material in German not easily accessible to non-German lawyers. In addition, at times there is a gap of up to five years between the reporting period and the actual publication of the report.

GPIL – German Practice in International Law hopes to address these issues by presenting German State practice in the field of public international law in English and in a timely fashion. Online publication allows the presentation of the German position on current questions of public international law within days of that position being made public. All documents or extracts thereof not otherwise available in English are translated into English. In this manner it hopes to provide in particular non-German speaking scholars and practitioners with a ready source of current information on the views and practice of the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany in the field of public international law.

GPIL – German Practice in International Law aims at covering the full spectrum of public international law ranging from air and space law to the use of force. The material is arranged in 35 broad subject categories. A Search facility allows for a full-text search of all records. The material is presented without hyperlinks or references as many of the original documents will be in German. A fully referenced version of all entries will be published annually in book form.

GPIL – German Practice in International Law intends to present both the official position of the executive branch of the German Government and the decisions of German courts. The material presented includes hard-to-find diplomatic notes, letters, statements, transcripts of press conferences, answers to parliamentary questions, government reports, statements before international organisations or at international conferences, and submissions to domestic and international courts and tribunals.

GPIL – German Practice in International Law adopts a case study approach. Taking an incident, event or new development as a starting point, each case study presents the German position on a question or questions of public international law and puts that position in its wider factual and political context. Where applicable, it also records the reactions of other States and provides an analysis and a legal assessment of the German position. While the extracts of German Government documents obviously reflect that government’s position, the account of the background to that position, the interconnecting text and the commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of the German Government. Indeed, no aspect of GPIL is subsidised or supervised by the German Government.

GPIL – German Practice in International Law values your suggestions and comments. Please write to us at gpil_info@jura.uni-bonn.de.

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