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A Note on Bjorge’s The Evolutionary Interpretation of Treaties

Published on December 16, 2014        Author: 

A treaty. An international court or tribunal. Two states. The search for meaning. Submissions are made by the parties as to the ‘correct’ or ‘best’ interpretation of the treaty. Recourse is had to the canons of interpretation in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. Terms like ‘good faith’, ‘ordinary meaning’, ‘object and purpose’ are repeated like incantations. So too, almost as often, terms like ‘subsequent agreement’, ‘subsequent practice’ and ‘evolutionary interpretation’ reverberate. One sometimes wonders what has happened to the actual text of the treaty to be interpreted, blanketed as it now is in interpretative theory.

In this careful and lawyerly study, Eirik Bjorge cuts through all this, drawing our attention back to basics. First and above all one has to look at the text of the treaty. The text, in its authentic language(s), is the primary expression of the common intention of the parties. This common intention is to be determined objectively by applying the canons of interpretation established in the Articles 31-33 of the Vienna Convention. Bjorge points out that the evolutionary interpretation of treaties is nothing more than that: an expression of the traditional canons of treaty construction. It is a method suited for all treaties, not just one class. It is a method for all international tribunals, not just one. But how much interpretation can the text stand? It is this question that encapsulates the quest for meaning.

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Mr. Kadi and Article 103 (A Poem)

Published on July 29, 2013        Author: 

Professor James Crawford SC FBA is Whewell Professor of International Law at the University of Cambridge

While wandering through a wadi
in the wastes of Saudi
I came across Mr KadiKadi
cracking rather hardy.

I said ‘you must feel blue
at what they’ve done to you’;
he said to me ‘that’s true,
but I’ve got the CJEU,

lacking whose authority
the P5 sorority
are now a small minority,
who’ve lost their old priority.’

And so went Mr Kadi
wandering down his wadi:
‘it’s all because of me;
I killed Article 103!’


* Editors’ note: We are delighted to publish Professor Crawford’s poem, which he first presented last week during a lecture at The Hague Academy of International Law. Previous posts about Kadi here(Kadi pictured above, credit.)