The Accords are revised and signed every fifteen years by representatives of the Nephilim and all Downworlder groups, in the Accords Hall in Alicante. However, after the Dark War and in light of the Cold Peace, the faeries are no longer part of the Accords until 2012 when the Cold Peace came to an end.
The Accords is a treaty that ordains how Shadowhunters and Downworlders interact with mundanes and one another, as well as each group's rights, responsibilities, and restrictions, stating that as long as the rules are not broken, they can live in peace without bother and may even provide each other help when the need ever rises. Although the Accords keep the two parties in good enough terms to avoid slaughter between them, hostility is quite unavoidable.
The detailed legal language, rights, punishments, and penalties of Downworlders in criminal trials are also detailed and specified to prevent different interpretations and punishments out of proportion to the crime. Previously part of the Accords, the criminal law section is now treated as a separate document as it is now significantly longer than the rest of the Accords put together. It is framed by a group of representative—ones with legal expertise—different from those who write the rest of the Accords.
Mundanes are neither signers of the Accords nor are they subject to Covenant Law. This is said to be one of the most controversial parts of the Law. Every Accords proceeding has featured strident demands from both Shadowhunters and Downworlders that mundanes be held accountable for their behavior. These demands are always declined, for the simple reason that the Nephilim's charge to keep the Shadow World hidden from mundanes must be paramount.
The whole business never had the unanimous support of the Clave. Some reforms were even heavily opposed by some Shadowhunters, mostly by those who stood to lose significant income as a result of the proposed Reforms. Almost every Accords negotiation has drawn protests, objections, internal squabbles from among the Nephilim. Eventually, their interests and common desire to achieve peace aligned the two parties enough to finally agree upon the terms of the Accords.
1872, First Accords
The idea of a treaty between Shadowhunters and Downworlders continued to be discussed. In 1857 in London, Ralf Scott with his fellow Downworlders arranged a meeting with the Shadowhunters to discuss the terms, though this attempt was also fruitless. By the twenty-first draft of the terms and agreements of Shadowhunters and Downworlders, the treaty has become known as the Accords.
The drafting of the agreement was presided over by Consul Josiah Wayland and his high Victorian Council, along with the various Downworlder representatives. Arguments went on about the terms, and throughout this, Granville Fairchild acted as a peacekeeper between the delegations, making it easier for all parties involved to accept each others' wishes. The final draft, the thirty-third, was agreed upon near the end of the summer of 1872. Fifty signers were present to ratify it: ten vampires, ten werewolves, ten warlocks, ten faeries, and ten Nephilim. The subsequent Accords since then were mostly modeled after the first.
The Great Hall in Alicante was used as the location for the historic signing of the First Accords. Since the signing, the building has been commonly referred to as the Accords Hall, and it continues to be used every fifteen years for the revising and signing of the Accords.
1902, Third Accords
A large fountain in the shape of a mermaid was commissioned and sculpted in 1902 to celebrate the Third Accords, the first of the new century.
1991, Ninth Accords
The signing of the Ninth Accords took place in 1991, around a year early to make way for a lengthy faerie ritual done every 500 years that would have conflicted with the planned 1992 signing. The signing was disrupted by the Uprising of the Circle, a group of dissident Shadowhunters led by Valentine Morgenstern.
The Circle attended the signing as part of the audience of Nephilim and Downworlders in the gallery of the Accords Hall, smuggling demonic weapons into the Hall. The moment the Accords were presented for signing, the Circle, as one body, rose and bared their weapons. Fortunately, Jocelyn Fairchild and Lucian Graymark were aware of their plans and had prepared groups of Downworlders outside the Hall to fight.
The confrontation ended in carnage, slaughtering several Downworlders and Shadowhunters, making this event one of the worst memories still told in the present. With the aid of the Downworlder armies, the Circle was defeated and forced to flee. After the battle, a great funeral was held in Angel Square in Alicante to honor the dead, and some of the surviving members of the Circle surrendered to and cooperated with the Clave.
Ultimately, the Uprising ended in failure, as the Ninth Accords was still signed weeks later. Ironically, while the negotiations were particularly difficult that year due to clashing opinions, the Uprising "helped to uphold the Shadow World's commitment to the Accords passage."
2007, Tenth Accords
After stopping Valentine Morgenstern, the Tenth Accords were successfully signed. Unfortunately, the Accords were threatened when the faeries of the Seelie Court joined forces with Sebastian Morgenstern's dark army, which nearly ended in the eradication of all Nephilim. Clary Fairchild managed to kill Sebastian and destroy his army by destroying the Infernal Cup that created them. Though their mission was a success, Shadowhunters have formed a firm hatred towards all faeries, including Shadowhunters with faerie blood. Thus, the Cold Peace was formed; faeries were to repair the damage they had inflicted and would not carry any weapons with them. If Shadowhunters spotted them with weapons, they would be executed on the spot. Despite their pleas and some of the other Shadowhunters' reasoning, the majority vote overruled any protest against the Cold Peace.
The Accords dictates several resolutions and social reforms meant to ease the relationship between Shadowhunters and Downworlders, Idris and the Downworld.
- The Nephilim is recognized as the official law-keeping force of the Downworld, and the Downworlders agreed to abide by Covenant Law. The theoretical body of Heaven, through its representative Raziel, is acknowledged as the ultimate authority over the world.
- Downworlders are acknowledged as beings with souls, and thus entitled to the protections due to humans.
- Downworlders are allowed to adopt mundane children.
- Downworlders are granted the right to a court trial when accused of breaking the Law; no longer could Shadowhunters adjudge them guilty of crimes and punish them immediately.
- Spoils were made illegal through the Accords, unless executed as part of an official sentence at a trial performed by the Clave.
- The barbaric use of the Mortal Cup on Downworlders as a form of capital punishment—of inquisitional torture and murder—was made fully illegal during the Second Accords of 1887, over a hundred years after Consul Suleiman Kanuni eliminated it as an official punishment.
- Exposure, the practice of binding vampires outside to be burned alive by the rising sun, was banned in the Third Accords of 1902 after the popularity of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula led to an enthusiasm for hunting and brutally killing innocent, Law-abiding vampires.
- Downworlders' are granted the right to their own internal organizational schemes vampire clans, wolf packs, faerie courts, et cetera—without interference from the Clave.
- The Accords made membership in one of these internal organizations a requirement for Downworlders; "unaffiliated" vampires or werewolves were considered rogue and were not afforded the same protections under the Law.
- While subjected to the Law of the Covenant through the Accords, the Downworlders are still meant to police themselves, with Shadowhunters interfering only in cases where problems are too severe, or where issues affect other parts of Downworld or the mundane world. Downworlders still have the right to conduct their internal business privately, without the interference or oversight of the Nephilim.
- Downworlders are obliged to swear never to reveal the nature of the Shadow World to mundanes, unless such a revelation cannot be avoided, just as Nephilim sworn to the Covenant do.
- By the Accords, vampires must abide by the same mundane laws against murder as any other Downworlders, requiring them to turn away from their natures as hunters and predators, just as humans must choose to turn away from our own abilities to kill and harm.
- The creation of new subjugates was made illegal in the Seventh Accords of 1962. Vampires who had subjugates created prior to the Accords were allowed to keep or transfer them to other vampires.
- Warlock persecution was officially made illegal in the First Accords. The Accords guarantees rights of warlocks and legal permission to perform demonic magic, particularly when acting to assist a Nephilim investigation. The laws against Shadowhunter-warlock collaboration and the use of whatever magic was deemed necessary was fully revoked by the Fourth Accords.
- The legalization of faerie changelings is legal, though hotly debated at several of the Accords proceedings. The fey makes it clear that their signing of the Accords represents their covenant for behavior among the Nephilim's realm, but not in their own.
* Some of these dates are conjectural, given the 15-year gaps.
** Though it should have taken place in 1992 according to convention, it took place around a year early to make way for faerie tradition.
- The official Accords robes, or cloaks, were red, the Shadowhunter color for ceremonial events. Meanwhile, the demon towers of Alicante, according to Raphael Santiago, light up blue for the Accords.
- There was initially some conflict/continuity error regarding the year of the Uprising and the Ninth Accords, which was at first expected (based on 15-year-computation) and said (in The Shadowhunter's Codex) to have been signed in 1992; however, the ages and presumed birth years of the central characters (particularly Sebastian, Jace, Alec, Isabelle, and Clary's) contradicted it, making the year of the Ninth Accords 1991. This was adjusted to 1991 in the repackaged version of City of Bones, as one of the included corrections/clarifications, and further editions of The Shadowhunter's Codex.