Interpreting Reasons: The Interpretation of the 1962 Temple of Preah Vihear Judgment

in Hague Yearbook of International Law / Annuaire de La Haye de Droit International, Vol. 26 (2013)
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Abstract

On 11 November 2013, the International Court of Justice (‘ICJ’) handed down interpretation of its 1962 Judgment of the Case Concerning the Temple of Preah Vihear. The Court adhered to its previous case law in affirming a strict approach to the circumstances in which it will interpret the reasoning (motifs) of a previous judgment under Article 60 of the Statute of the ICJ, reiterating that the reasons should be inseparable from the operative clause of the judgment (dispositif). However, the disavowal of a narrow definition of ‘inseparable’, as well as the acknowledgement that reasons ‘essential’ to the operative part of the judgment may also be subject to interpretation, manifests the willingness of the majority of the Court to take a more flexible approach in the future should the case require. This poses the question: just how far should the Court interpret the reasoning of a judgment? The facts of the Temple case demonstrate that elements of reasoning in a previous judgment may be irreversible – to renege on the reasoning would be injurious to the stability of international relations. This note argues that these intermediate conclusions should be able to be the subject of requests for interpretation under Article 60 of the Statute of the Court.

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