The Intersection of International Law and Domestic Law

The Intersection of International Law and Domestic Law

A Theoretical and Practical Analysis

Davíd T. Björgvinsson

What are the theoretical and practical issues relating to the intersection between domestic and international law? This important new book discusses how general theories, including monism and dualism, transpire in practice. The author examines several key areas: the rules relating to treaty making and the ratification of treatises, the doctrine of automatic incorporation and transformation, the direct effect of international norms in the domestic system, and a discussion of the principle of consistent interpretation. With a focus on the European Convention on Human Rights, the author concludes that, although traditional theories are still relevant, they fall short in grasping the complexity of the different ways in which the legislator and the courts have given effect to international law on the domestic level.

Chapter 6: Principle of consistent interpretation

Davíd T. Björgvinsson

Subjects: law - academic, public international law


The principle of consistent interpretation is sometimes referred to as the ‘Charming Betsy’ doctrine. Put in simple terms, the principle means that a national statute must be construed so as not to conflict with international law. The principle is held to be applied regardless of whether reference to an international legal obligation is necessary for the conclusion at the domestic level or not. As long as the interpretation of a statute is coherent with the relevant international norm, it is considered to be a consistent interpretation. This principle is an important tool to give an international legal rule effect on the domestic level. The principle of consistent interpretation is so widely accepted by the countries of the world, both in common law and civil law systems, that it is a legitimate question whether it is only one of the accepted canons of interpretation in national law or whether it should be considered a general rule of international law that states should act in this way. Whatever the precise answer to this question, it is clear that the principle of consistent interpretation is induced from both sides, so to speak: namely, the duty of states under international law to abide by their obligations and the readiness of most states, when relevant, to streamline their interpretation and application of national law with regard to such obligations in order to avoid possible conflict.

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