Treaty Interpretation

Treaty interpretation is central to the work of international lawyers. One of the principal tools used by the International Section attorneys for this purpose is the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. The convention, which is based on draft articles prepared by the International Law Commission, applies to agreements between countries and is widely regarded as codifying customary international law on treaties with some necessary augmentations and clarifications. It entered into force on 27 January 1980 and has been ratified by 108 countries as of 2008. While the U.S. signed the Convention on May 26, 1971, the Senate has never given its advice and consent to ratification. Nevertheless, the U.S. generally recognizes the Convention as an authoritative restatement of customary international law. See, e.g., Assistant Legal Advisor for Treaty Affairs at the Department of State and Secretary of State Roger’s Report to the President, Oct. 18, 1971, 65 Dep’t St. Bull. 684, 685 (1971); Chubb & Son, Inc. v. Asiana Airlines, 214 F.3d 301, 308 (2nd Cir. 2000) (cert. denied).

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