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Is Treaty Interpretation an Art or a Science? International Law and Rational Decision Making

Linderfalk, Ulf LU (2015) In European Journal of International Law 26(1). p.169-189
Abstract
Although treaty interpretation is undoubtedly an activity governed by international law, and by Articles 31-33 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT) in particular, some commentators continue repeating the pre-Vienna adage that treaty interpretation is a matter of art and not science, the implication of which is that no understanding of a treaty provision can ever be explained rationally. As the present article argues, this idea of interpretation must be rejected. While, sometimes, an assumed meaning of a treaty cannot be justified based on international law simpliciter, many times it can still be explained based on the structural framework of Articles 31-33 of the VCLT. Consequently, any characterization of treaty... (More)
Although treaty interpretation is undoubtedly an activity governed by international law, and by Articles 31-33 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT) in particular, some commentators continue repeating the pre-Vienna adage that treaty interpretation is a matter of art and not science, the implication of which is that no understanding of a treaty provision can ever be explained rationally. As the present article argues, this idea of interpretation must be rejected. While, sometimes, an assumed meaning of a treaty cannot be justified based on international law simpliciter, many times it can still be explained based on the structural framework of Articles 31-33 of the VCLT. Consequently, any characterization of treaty interpretation in the abstract as either art or science is misplaced. Whether treaty interpretation is an art or a science remains a question of fact inextricably tied to the approach taken by each and every law-applying agent in particular cases. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
in
European Journal of International Law
volume
26
issue
1
pages
169 - 189
publisher
Oxford University Press
external identifiers
  • wos:000353692000006
  • scopus:84926482246
ISSN
1464-3596
DOI
10.1093/ejil/chv008
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
69a1d5d6-1f8c-47ca-a328-f43307727a5a (old id 7432799)
date added to LUP
2015-06-25 08:51:35
date last changed
2017-07-09 03:21:00
@article{69a1d5d6-1f8c-47ca-a328-f43307727a5a,
  abstract     = {Although treaty interpretation is undoubtedly an activity governed by international law, and by Articles 31-33 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT) in particular, some commentators continue repeating the pre-Vienna adage that treaty interpretation is a matter of art and not science, the implication of which is that no understanding of a treaty provision can ever be explained rationally. As the present article argues, this idea of interpretation must be rejected. While, sometimes, an assumed meaning of a treaty cannot be justified based on international law simpliciter, many times it can still be explained based on the structural framework of Articles 31-33 of the VCLT. Consequently, any characterization of treaty interpretation in the abstract as either art or science is misplaced. Whether treaty interpretation is an art or a science remains a question of fact inextricably tied to the approach taken by each and every law-applying agent in particular cases.},
  author       = {Linderfalk, Ulf},
  issn         = {1464-3596},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {1},
  pages        = {169--189},
  publisher    = {Oxford University Press},
  series       = {European Journal of International Law},
  title        = {Is Treaty Interpretation an Art or a Science? International Law and Rational Decision Making},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ejil/chv008},
  volume       = {26},
  year         = {2015},
}