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Sir Michael Wood

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Sir Michael is a member of the UN International Law Commission. He was the principal Legal Adviser to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office between 1999 and 2006. During 35 years as a lawyer in the FCO, he attended many international conferences, including the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea.

He spent three years at the United Kingdom Mission to the United Nations in New York, dealing chiefly with Security Council matters. He was Agent for the United Kingdom for a number of years before the European Commission and Court of Human Rights, and UK Agent in cases before the ICJ, as well as in proceedings before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and arbitral tribunals.

Sir Michael is a member of the International Law Commission of the United Nations and is a senior fellow of the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, University of Cambridge.


  • Public international law in general
  • International law of the sea, including maritime delimitation
  • International human rights law and the laws of war
  • English foreign relations law
  • Constitutional law of the British overseas territories
  • United Nations law

Principal Cases: 

International Court of Justice
Agent for the United Kingdom in the Questions of Interpretation and Application of the 1971 Montreal Convention arising from the Aerial Incident at Lockerbie (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya v. United Kingdom) case (1999-2003)  

Agent for the United Kingdom in the Legality of Use of Force (Serbia and Montenegro v. United Kingdom) case (1999-2004)  

Representative of the United Kingdom in the Legal Consequences of the Construction of the Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory Advisory Opinion (2003-2004)

Counsel for Ukraine in the Delimitation in the Black Sea case (Romania v. Ukraine) (2007-8)  

Counsel for Kosovo in the Accordance with International Law of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in respect of Kosovo Advisory Opinion (2008-10)  

Counsel for Belgium in the Questions relating to the Obligation to Prosecute or Extradite (Belgium v. Senegal) case (2009-2012)  

Counsel for Peru in the Maritime Dispute (Peru v Chile) case (2009-14)  

Counsel for Honduras (application to intervene), Territorial and Maritime Dispute (Nicaragua v. Colombia) case (2010-11)

Counsel for Timor-Leste in Questions relating to the Seizure and Detention of Certain Documents and Data (Timor-Leste v. Australia) case (2013-15)  

Counsel for Colombia in Question of the Delimitation of the Continental Shelf between Nicaragua and Colombia beyond 200 nautical miles from the Nicaraguan Coast (Nicaragua v. Colombia) case (2013-   )  

Counsel for Colombia in Alleged Violations of Sovereign Rights and Maritime Spaces in the Caribbean Sea (Nicaragua v. Colombia) case (2013-  )      

Counsel for Equatorial Guinea in Immunities and Criminal Proceedings (Equatorial Guinea v. France) case (2016-  )

International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea 
Agent for the United Kingdom in the MOX Plant case (Ireland v. United Kingdom), Provisional Measures (2001)  

Counsel for Myanmar in Dispute concerning Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary between Bangladesh and Myanmar in the Bay of Bengal (2009-2012)  

Counsel for the United Kingdom, Responsibilities and obligations of States sponsoring persons and entities with respect to activities in the International Seabed Area, Advisory Opinion, Seabed Disputes Chamber (2010-2011)  

Counsel for the United Kingdom, Sub-Regional Fisheries Organization, Advisory Opinion (2013-15)   

Counsel for Côte d’Ivoire, Maritime Delimitation (Ghana v. Côte d’Ivoire), Special Chamber (2014-  )  

Counsel for Italy, The Enrica Lexie Incident (Italy v. India), Provisional Measures (2015)   

Inter-State Arbitration
Agent for the United Kingdom in the MOX Plant cases (Ireland v. United Kingdom), OSPAR Arbitration Tribunal (2001-03)  

Agent for the United Kingdom in the MOX Plant cases (Ireland v. United Kingdom), UNCLOS Annex VII arbitral tribunal (2001-06)  

Counsel for India in Dispute concerning Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary between Bangladesh and India in the Bay of Bengal, UNCLOS Annex VII arbitral tribunal (200914)  

Counsel for Slovenia in Croatia/Slovenia (Land and Maritime Boundary), arbitral tribunal (2010-  )  

Counsel for the United Kingdom in Chagos Marine Protected Area (Mauritius v United Kingdom), UNCLOS Annex VII arbitral tribunal (2011-15)   

Counsel for Italy, The Enrica Lexie Incident (Italy v. India), UNCLOS Annex VII arbitral tribunal (2015-  )    

Inter-State Conciliation  
Counsel for Timor-Leste, Timor-Leste v Australia, UNCLOS Annex V conciliation commission (2016-  )    

European Court (and Commission) of Human Rights
Agent for the United Kingdom in numerous cases before the European Commission and Court of Human Rights (1985-90), including Soering v United Kingdom  

Counsel for Turkey in Demopoulos and Others v Turkey, European Court of Human Rights (property in northern Cyprus) (2009-10)    

English courts
Aziz v Aziz and Ors, Court of Appeal, judgment of 11 July 2007 (attack on dignity of Head of State) (Advocate to the Court)  

Ahmed and others v HM Treasury, Supreme Court, judgment of 27 January 2010 (UK implementation of UN sanctions) (Counsel for HM Treasury)  

R (oao Maya Evans) v Secretary of State for Defence, Administrative Court, judgment of 25 June 2010 (detainees in Afghanistan) (Counsel for the Secretary of State)  

Khurts Bat v Investigating Judge of the German Federal Court, Administrative Court, judgment of 29 July 2011 (special mission, high-ranking office and State immunity claims) (Counsel for FCO, Interested Party)  

Mutua and Ors v Foreign and Commonwealth Office, High Court, judgments of 21 July 2011/5 October 2012 (claims in tort in relation to the handling of the Mau Mau emergency in Kenya: issues of State succession and limitation of actions under international law) (Counsel for FCO)   

Education and Career: 

Cambridge University, MA LLB (First Class) (1969)

Institute of European Studies, Brussels University (1969-70)

Called to the Bar, Gray’s Inn (1968)

Bencher of Gray’s Inn (2000)

CMG (1995); KCMG (2004) 


United Nations documents:  

Formation and evidence of customary international law. Note (A/CN.4/653, 30 May 2012)  

First report on formation and evidence of customary international law (A/CN.4/663, 17 May 2013)  

Second report on identification of customary international law (A/CN.4/672, 22 May 2014)  

Third report on identification of customary international law (A/CN.4/682, 27 March 2015)  

Fourth report on identification of customary international law (A/CN.4/695, 8 March 2016)   

Articles and books: 

"The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, including Diplomatic Agents", 23 International and Comparative Law Quarterly (1974)

"The European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism", 1 Yearbook of European Law (1981)

"The Legal Status of Berlin" (1987, with I. D. Hendry)

"Participation of Former Yugoslav States in the United Nations and in Multilateral Treaties", 1 Max Planck Yearbook of United Nations Law (1997)

"The Interpretation of Security Council Resolutions", 2 Max Planck Yearbook of United Nations Law (1998)

"International Seabed Authority: the First Four Years", 3 Max Planck Yearbook of United Nations Law (1999)

"Northern and Western European Maritime Boundaries", in: Colson/Smith, International Maritime Boundaries, Vol. V (2005)

"Towards New Circumstances in which the Use of Force may be Authorized? The Cases of Humanitarian Intervention, Counter-terrorism, and Weapons of Mass Destruction", in: The Security Council and the Use of Force: Theory and Reality - A Need for Change? (eds. N. Blokker/N. Schrijver, 2005)

"The United Kingdom's Acceptance of the Compulsory Jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice", in: Festskrift til Carl August Fleischer (eds. O Fauchald/H Jakhelln/A Syse, 2006)

"Nécessité et légitime défense dans la lutte contre le terrorisme: quelle est la pertinence de l'affaire de la Caroline aujourd'hui?", in: La nécessité en droit international Société française pour le droit international, Colloque de Grenoble, 2006

"The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and General International Law", 22 International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law (2007)

"The Selection of Candidates for International Judicial Office: Recent Practice", in: Law of the Sea, Environmental Law and Settlement of Disputes: Liber Amicorum Judge Thomas A. Mensah (eds. T M Ndiaye/R Wolfrum, 2007)

Three lectures on "The UN Security Council and International Law" (2006), available on the website of the Lauterpacht Centre for Intenrational Law, University of Cambridge. An expanded version of these lectures will be published in due course by Cambridge University Press as a book within the Hersch Lauterpacht Memorial Lectures series

"The Law on the Use of Force: Current Challenges", 11 Singapore Yearbook of International Law (2007)

"The Security Council and International Criminal Law", 5 Romanian Journal of International Law/Revista Română de Drept International (2007)

"The International Seabed Authority: Fifth to Twelfth Sessions (1999-2006)", 11 Max Planck Yearbook of United Nations Law (2007)

"The General Assembly and the International Law Commission: What Happens to the Commission's Work and Why?", in: I Buffard, J Crawford, A Pellet, S Wittich (eds.), International Law Between Universalism and Fragmentation. Festschrift in Honour of Gerhard Hafner (2008)

"The Principle of Non-Intervention" (with Maziar Jamnejad), 29 Leiden Journal of International Law (2009)

"Detention during International Military Operations: Article 103 of the Charter and the Al-Jedda case", 47 Revue de Droit Militaire et de Droit de la Guerre/The Military Law and the Law of War Review (2009)

" 'Constitutionalization' of International Law: A Sceptical Voice", in: K H Kaikabad, M Bohlinder (eds.), International Law and Power.  Perspectives on Legal Order and Justice.  Essays in Honour of Colin Warbrick (2009)

Halsbury's Laws of England, 5th ed.,'International Relations Law' (contributor), Vol. 61 (2010)

"Reflections on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea: A Living Instrument" in J. Barrett (ed.), Law of the Sea - UNCLOS as a living treaty (forthcoming, 2016)  

 “Custom’s Bright Future. The Continuing Importance of Customary International Law” (with O. Sender), in C. Bradley (ed.), Custom’s Future. International Law in a Changing World (forthcoming, 2016)  

Security Council resolution 687 (1991) and the law of treaties” in M Bowman, D Kritsiotis (eds.), Conceptual and Contextual Perspectives on the Modern Law of Treaties (forthcoming, 2016)  

The emergence of customary international law: Between theory and practice” (with O Sender), in C Brōlmann, Y Radi (eds.), Research Handbook on the Theory and Practice of International Lawmaking (2016)   

The present position within the ILC on the topic “Identification of customary international law”: in partial response to Sienho Yee, Report on the ILC Project on “Identification of Customary International Law””, Chinese Journal of International Law (2016)  

State Responsibility for Internationally Wrongful Acts: advantages and disadvantages of moving towards a convention”, in P. Bodeau-Livinec (ed.), Formes du droit international. Réflexions sur le devenir des travaux de la Commission du droit international (forthcoming, 2016)  

The CAHDI and the peaceful settlement of disputes”, in Council of Europe (ed.), The CAHDI Contribution to the Development of Public International Law: Achievements and Future Challenges (2016) 

Published talks  

The use of force in 2015 with particular reference to Syria”, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 5 January 2016 (Hebrew University of Jerusalem Legal Studies Research Paper Series No. 16-05)  

Remarks on the importance of 'teachings' in international law, with particular reference to the Melland Schill Lecture Series”, Manchester International Law Centre, 1 February 2016 e/digitisation/Sir-Michael-Wood-Speaker-notes.pdf  


Identifying the Rules for Identifying Customary International Law: Response from Michael Wood and Omri Sender” AJIL Unbound (February, 2015)  

The International Court of Justice and Customary International Law: A Reply to Stefan Talmon” (with O Sender) EJILTalk! (November 2015) 

Entries in R Wolfrum (ed.), Max Planck "Encyclopedia of Public International Law" (online edition 2008), including:

  • Committee of Legal Advisers on Public International Law (CAHDI)
  • International Courts and Tribunals, Discontinuance of Cases
  • Final Act
  • International Seabed Authority
  • Legal Advisers
  • Macedonia
  • Peace, Breach of
  • State Practice
  • Teachings of the Most Highly Qualified Publicists
  • United Nations Administrative Tribunal, Applications for Review (Advisory Opinions)
  • United Nations Charter, Enemy State Clauses
  • United Nations Security Council
  • Use of Force, Prohibition of Threat


He is a star individual because he is a silk that never took silk – everyone else in the list is a mere mortal.” Chambers UK 2018

Outstanding law of the sea expert.” Chambers UK 2018

"One of the very top for public international law." Legal 500 2017

"His role for some 35 years as a lawyer with the FCO, including as its Principal Legal Advisor, gives him unique and valuable experience and insight. He is a pleasure to work with, and his advocacy is measured but compelling." Chambers UK 2017.

"Definitely among the top tier of public international law barristers." Legal 500 2016

"Very closely attuned to the thinking of the International Court of Justice judges and the way governments work." Legal 500 2015

"has an encyclopaedic knowledge of public international law - if he doesn't know about something related to this area it doesn't exist." Chambers UK 2016

"In this area, it's not possible to be effective at the highest level without a hands-on understanding of how international institutions operate, and he brings an abundance of that." Chambers UK 2015