Table of Contents

Research Handbook on the Law of Treaties

Research Handbook on the Law of Treaties

Research Handbooks in International Law series

Edited by Christian J. Tams, Antonios Tzanakopoulos and Andreas Zimmermann

Offering a unique conceptual approach to the Law of Treaties this insightful Research Handbook not only sets out the foundational issues, but identifies tensions within the field, including formalism vs flexibility, integrity vs flexibility, and uniformity vs specialisation, to name a few. It seeks to define and re-define the dimensions in which Treaty law operates, tracing its fault-lines and the challenges it faces, such as breaches, regime-collisions, state succession and armed conflict. Representing a broad range of jurisdictional and ideological perspectives, the Research Handbook provides a diverse and stimulating approach to international treaties.

Chapter 16: Treaty breaches and responses

Christian J. Tams

Subjects: law - academic, public international law, politics and public policy, international politics, international relations


As a general rule, treaties are not concluded to be breached; but treaty breaches are quite common. They are bound to occur, as so much of international life is covered by international treaties (and hence there is so much treaty law to be breached), and as States, like other subjects of the law, are not perfect. None of this is particularly surprising or particularly problematic. No legal system can exclude non-compliance with accepted voluntary commitments (under treaties, under contracts, under pledges or promises, etc); and all legal systems anticipate non-compliance. It is in the way they deal with instances of non-compliance that legal systems differ. This chapter assesses how one particular legal system – international law – addresses one particular form of non-compliance – treaty breaches. It proceeds on the basis of two fairly straightforward questions. The first question is addressed to the substance of international law: what does international law have to say on treaty breaches and responses? For reasons of convenience, this question will be broken into two sets of issues. What amounts to a treaty breach? And what are the consequences of treaty breaches, and how other States obtain redress? The second question concerns the locus of regulation: what branches of international law address treaty breaches and responses? In assessing this second question, and in line with the overall focus of the Research Handbook, the subsequent contribution looks to the general law of treaties, as codified in the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT).

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