The Law of Treaties
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The Law of Treaties

An Introduction

Robert Kolb

Permeating all facets of public international law, the modern law of treaties is a fundamental aspect of governance in the ‘democratized’ world. In this contemporary introduction, Robert Kolb provides a refreshing study that is both legally analytical and practical. Written in a highly readable style, the book explores the key topics through concise chapters, which are organized into two parts. The first of these gives a structured overview of the law of treaties along with practical examples. The second provides a critical engagement with the underlying issues and discusses the multi-dimensional problems raised by legal regulations, explored through specific case studies.
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Chapter V: Validity

Robert Kolb


The legal order is not compelled to consider valid any treaty concluded, notwithstanding any defaults that may have occurred during the process of conclusion. Quite to the contrary, legal orders regularly devise reasons for invalidity of legal acts. In international law, however, for a long time, the law on the invalidity of treaties was underdeveloped or even completely absent. The main reason was that the use of force was not prohibited in classical international law. It was a recognized means of national policy and of enforcement of legal obligations. Therefore, in all logic, coerced treaties were not invalid. The great peace treaties were prototypes of coerced treaties: the winning parties imposed on the vanquished a new international order. This was the case, for example, in Westphalia (1648), later in Vienna (1815) and finally in Versailles (1919). To consider that such treaties could be voided on the basis of coercion was to destabilize the very bases of the international system. The same could be said, at least to some extent, for the many imposed unequal treaties. The obligatory character of treaties thus held sway over their ‘validity’. There was no readiness to accept that treaties, which were the main instrument of stabilization of triumphant power, could be subverted by the States subjected to their order. In other words, the treaty process was not necessarily based on consent; treaties were also ‘legislation’ imposed by States composing a sort of de facto international government on some other States.

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