The Holistic Interpretation of Treaties at the International Court of Justice

In: Nordic Journal of International Law
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  • 1 United Kingdom

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This article revises the topic of treaty interpretation at the International Court of Justice and focuses on what judges at this Court do in terms of treaty interpretation. The main argument developed in the article, based on an extended analysis of case-law at the ICJ, prior to and after the adoption of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, is that the ICJ’s approaches to interpretation after the VCLT was adopted are consistent with the canons of treaty interpretation which this Court has greatly developed and applied with consistency since its inception. The case-law analysis reveals a preference of the PCIJ/ICJ for holistic interpretation, and thus for the use of more rules and methods of interpretation than initially declared by the Court as sufficient to solve the issue of interpretation before it, in an interpretative approach which could be termed ‘overbuilding’.