Treaty Interpretation

Isabelle Van Damme

in International Law

ISBN: 9780199796953
Published online March 2012 | | DOI:
Treaty Interpretation

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  • International Law
  • International Courts and Tribunals
  • Private International Law and Conflict of Laws
  • Public International Law



The practice and theory of treaty interpretation form a classical theme of the law of treaties. As with other parts of international law, the scholarly interest in this theme has developed in cycles. Many of the interpretive arguments made before the advent of international courts and tribunals and applied in judicial reasoning are rooted in the early writings of lawyers like Hersch Lauterpacht, Arnold McNair, and Gerald Fitzmaurice rather than in the work of the UN International Law Commission (ILC) and the result thereof, the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT). Academic writing has focused primarily on judicial pronouncements on the meaning of a treaty and on the process through which interpretive conclusions are reached. This feature logically has become more articulated in recent years against the backdrop of the growing number of active forums of dispute resolution in international law. Treaty interpretation, as a subject of an academic genre, is usually approached from either a practical perspective, analyzing the practice of treaty interpretation to deduce theoretic and systemic conclusions on the topic, or a theoretical perspective, using practical examples as illustrations for the points made. The aim of this bibliography is to catalogue both types of publication and to highlight publications useful to researchers and practitioners working on or writing on treaty interpretation in different fields of international law as well as in domestic contexts. Less attention is given to writings commenting on how a treaty was interpreted in a single case of a particular international court or tribunal without drawing conclusions that easily may be used outside the context of that specific judgment. The predominant strand of scholarship focuses on the application of a single principle of interpretation by a single court or tribunal, often in a single case or a few cases. Another strand focuses exclusively on a sole principle of interpretation but examines its application from a comparative perspective. Yet other, less popular strands of literature focus entirely, but with different degrees of intensity, on the interpretive practice of a single international court or tribunal, allowing one to reach conclusions about the judicial function assumed by that court or tribunal or on all principles of treaty interpretation as applied by diverse courts and tribunals. Finally and fortunately, a renewed interest in critical theory of treaty interpretation has emerged, counterbalancing—and sometimes uniquely complementing—the positivist tone of most scholarship available. The views expressed in this bibliography are made in a personal capacity and do not reflect the views of the institution in which the author serves.

Article.  12162 words. 

Subjects: International Law ; International Courts and Tribunals ; Private International Law and Conflict of Laws ; Public International Law

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