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Notes on Interpretation of Treaties | International Law


INTERPRETATION OF TREATIES


WHY INTERPRETATION : The process of interpretation ‘is a judicial function, whose purpose is to determine the precise meaning of a provision…”


3 BASIC APPROACHES OF INTERPRETATION OF TREATIES :


For an interpreting a provision in a treaty

1st approach : OBJECTIVE APPROACH : Focus on the actual text of the agreement and emphasises the analysis of the words used.

2nd Approach : SUBJECTIVE APPROACH : See the intention of the parties adopting the agreement.

3rd Approach: LIBERAL APPROACH : Look into the object and purpose of the treaty.


EFFECTIVE/TELEOLOGICAL APPROACH : Any true interpretation of a treaty in international law will have to take into account all aspects of the agreement, from the words employed to the intention of the parties and the aims of the particular document. It is not possible to exclude completely any one of these components. The principle of effectiveness is to give effect to provisions in accordance with the intentions of the parties and in accordance with the rules of international law., the principle of effectiveness allied with the broader purposes approach has been used in an especially dynamic manner.


RULES OF INTERPRETATION : Articles 31 to 33 of the Vienna Convention comprise in some measure aspects of all three doctrines.


Article 31 lays down the fundamental rules of interpretation : “A treaty shall be interpreted ‘in good faith in accordance with the ordinary meaning to be given to the terms of the treaty in their context and in the light of its object and purpose’(pacta sunt servanda)


1.Competence of the General Assembly for the Admission of a State to the United Nations case: ICJ opined that “ interpret and apply the provisions of a treaty … in their natural and ordinary meaning in the context in which they occur’


2.The Eritrea–Ethiopia Boundary Commission

  • See ‘common will’ of the parties

  • Principle of ‘contemporaneity’ : it means that a treaty should be interpreted by reference to the circumstances prevailing when the treaty was concluded.

ART.32 : If the interpretations results in ambiguous or obscure, or leads to a manifestly absurd or unreasonable result then preparatory works (travaux preparatoires) of the treaty and the circumstances of its conclusion is referred to.


ART. 33 : More than one language for a treaty, if any difference of meaning has arisen ,then in the absence of agreement, see the object and purpose of the treaty.


Presence of Agreement : The Kuwait Regional Marine Environment Convention 1978 was concluded in Arabic, English and Persian, but provides that in the case of divergence the English text prevails.


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