Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries
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Commentary of 2016 
Article 58 : Coming into force
Text of the provision*
(1) The present Convention shall come into force six months after not less than two instruments of ratification have been deposited.
(2) Thereafter, it shall come into force for each High Contracting Party six months after the deposit of the instrument of ratification.
* Paragraph numbers have been added for ease of reference.
Reservations or declarations
None
Contents

A. Introduction
3178  Article 58 determines the moment at which the Convention, by its entry into force, formally becomes part of international law. It also settles the date on which the full legal effects of the Convention begin for the signatory States ratifying it.[1]
3179  A certain period must elapse between the date on which the required number of instruments is deposited and the entry into force. This period allows ratifying States to take implementing measures and the depositary to notify other contracting States of the new ratification. Verification that the conditions set forth by the Convention have been met and the determination of the date of entry into force are a matter for the depositary. The provisions relating to the entry into force of a treaty and to certain functions of the depositary are applicable from the time of the adoption of its text.[2]
3180  Paragraph 1 of Article 58 addresses the coming into force of the Convention, after the first two States have deposited their instruments of ratification, while paragraph 2 addresses the coming into force of the Convention for signatory States depositing their instruments of ratification after the first two States.
3181  This provision is common to the four Conventions.[3] The process for entry into force after ratification and the date of that entry into force for a State have been the same for the four Conventions.
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B. Historical background
3182  This provision reproduces the text of the 1929 Geneva Conventions in virtually identical terms.[4] In the draft adopted by the 1948 International Conference of the Red Cross in Stockholm, the duration between ratification and entry into force was left open.[5] A proposal made in the Joint Committee that ‘the period for coming into force should be six months, similar to the Conventions of 1929’ met with no objections.[6] The provision thus completed was adopted unanimously.[7]
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C. Paragraph 1: Entry into force of the Convention following the deposit of the first two instruments of ratification
3183  Generally, a ‘treaty enters into force in such manner and upon such date as it may provide or as the negotiating States may agree’.[8] The Convention provides for an entry into force six months after the date on which the second instrument of ratification is deposited. The words ‘not less than two’ aimed to provide for the possibility of several States ratifying on the same day. The number of ratifications required before the Convention would enter into force was reduced to a minimum, namely two, which reflects the humanitarian nature of the Convention and the openness of the Conventions to acceding States. It allowed its entry into force as soon as possible, even if, initially, the Convention had legal effects only between the first two States that ratified it. This initial phase was in fact very short, since the third State, Monaco, ratified the Conventions only 75 days after the second State, Yugoslavia. At all times, however, States not party to the Convention were still bound by the rules of customary international law.
3184  The interval of six months between the deposit of the second instrument of ratification and the Convention’s entry into force for the first two contracting Parties was designed to allow the States involved to initiate preparatory measures of a legislative, regulatory or practical nature for implementing their new obligations.[9] Although the Parties had previously signed the Conventions and had already had time between signature and ratification to prepare for their implementation, the provisions of the Conventions are complex and needed time to be implemented, for instance, at every level of the armed forces. In practice, the waiting period was longer only for the first State to ratify the Convention, i.e. six months following the date of deposit of the second instrument of ratification. It also allowed the depositary to notify the contracting States of the Convention’s forthcoming entry into force.
3185  When a waiting period is prescribed for the general entry into force of a treaty, the depositary has to calculate the date of entry into force. As the interval is formulated in months in this provision, the time runs from the date of the deposit of the instrument in question. Thus, the Convention entered into force on the six-month anniversary of the date on which the second instrument of ratification was deposited, i.e. on 21 October 1950, Switzerland having ratified it on 31 March 1950 and Yugoslavia on 21 April 1950. The same calculation applied afterwards for each State ratifying it in accordance with the second paragraph or acceding to it.[10]
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D. Paragraph 2: Entry into force of the Convention for States depositing their instrument of ratification after the initial two States
3186  Generally, ‘[w]hen the consent of a State to be bound by a treaty is established on a date after the treaty has come into force, the treaty enters into force for that State on that date, unless the treaty otherwise provides’.[11] Article 58(2) provides that, after the Convention has come into force in accordance with the first paragraph, it ‘shall come into force for each High Contracting Party six months after the deposit of the instrument of ratification’.
3187  The interval of six months between the deposit by a signatory State of its instrument of ratification and the entry into force of the Convention between that State and the other contracting Parties is identical to that in paragraph 1, for the reasons described above. After the six-month period, the State in question is bound by the Convention in its relations with all States which have ratified it not less than six months before. Thereafter, it is bound in its relations with other signatory States six months after each of them ratifies the Convention and, in its relations with acceding States, six months after their accession.[12]
3188  The only exception to this waiting period is contained in Article 62 of the Convention, under which ‘the situations provided for in Articles 2 and 3 shall give immediate effect to ratifications deposited and accessions notified by the Parties to the conflict before or after the beginning of hostilities or occupation’. For obvious humanitarian reasons, the six-month interval which normally separates the ratification or accession by a State from the entry into force of the Convention for that State is therefore dispensed with. This situation has never arisen in the case of ratification; it has, however, arisen in the case of accession.[13]
3189  When the Convention enters into force for a High Contracting Party, it does not follow that all its provisions must be applied immediately. The majority of its provisions, as indicated in Articles 2 and 3, only apply in the event of armed conflict, although most of them require preparatory measures.[14] In addition, in accordance with Article 2(1), certain provisions must be implemented immediately, i.e. in peacetime.[15]
3190  At the time of writing, the Conventions are in force for more than 190 States.[16]
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Select bibliography
Aust, Anthony, ‘Article 24: Entry into force’, in Olivier Corten and Pierre Klein (eds), The Vienna Conventions on the Law of Treaties: A Commentary, Vol. I, Oxford University Press, 2011, pp. 628–637.
Modern Treaty Law and Practice, 3rd edition, Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp. 145–158 (Entry into force) and 289–291 (Functions of the depositary).
Distefano, Giovanni and Henry, Etienne, ‘Final Provisions, Including the Martens Clause’, in Andrew Clapham, Paola Gaeta and Marco Sassòli (eds), The 1949 Geneva Conventions: A Commentary, Oxford University Press, 2015, pp. 155–188.
Reuter, Paul, Introduction to the Law of Treaties, 2nd edition, Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva, 1995, pp. 66–68 (Entry into force).
Schenker, Claude, Practice Guide to International Treaties, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Bern, 2015, pp. 13–14, available at https://www.fdfa.admin.ch/.
Sinclair, Ian, The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 2nd edition, Manchester University Press, 1984, pp. 44–47 (Entry into force).
United Nations, Office of Legal Affairs, Treaty Section, Summary of practice of the Secretary-General as depositary of multilateral treaties, UN Doc. ST/LEG/7/Rev.l, United Nations, New York, 1999, paras 221–247 (Entry into force).
Villiger, Mark E., Commentary on the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Leiden, 2009, pp. 339–348 (Article 24).

1 - See the commentary on Article 57 on ratification; see also the commentary on Article 61 on notification of accessions, which provides the same six-month rule in the case of accession.
2 - See Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969), Article 24(4), which is declaratory of customary international law (Villiger, p. 348).
3 - See Second Convention, Article 57; Third Convention, Article 138; and Fourth Convention, Article 153.
4 - Geneva Convention on the Wounded and Sick (1929), Article 33; Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War (1929), Article 92.
5 - Draft Conventions adopted by the 1948 Stockholm Conference, draft article 46, p. 28.
6 - See Final Record of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1949, Vol. II-B, p. 25 (Canada).
7 - See ibid. pp. 30, 71 and 113.
8 - Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969), Article 24(1), which is declaratory of customary international law (Villiger, p. 348).
9 - For further details on these preparatory measures, see the commentary on common Article 2, section C.
10 - Exceptionally, if an instrument is deposited, for example on 31 March, since there is no corresponding date in September, the treaty would enter into force on the last day of September, i.e. 30 September. Similarly, for a deposit made on 30 or 31 August, the treaty would enter into force on 28 or 29 February of the following year. See United Nations, Summary of practice of the Secretary-General as depositary of multilateral treaties, p. 70.
11 - Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969), Article 24(3), which is declaratory of customary international law (Villiger, p. 348).
12 - On accession to the Convention and its effect, see Articles 60–61.
13 - See the commentary on Article 62, para. 3248.
14 - On preparatory measures, see the commentary on common Article 2, section C.
15 - See the commentary on common Article 2, section C.
16 - For the current status of the Conventions, see: https://www.icrc.org/ihl.