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 VII: Interpretation

Robert Kolb


The bulk of the lawyer’s day-to-day work consists in interpreting legal provisions, mainly written, sometimes unwritten. In the case of written norms the interpretation turns around the text; in the case of unwritten norms, the first point is the ascertainment of the existence and extent of the provision. Contrary to a traditional legal view, interpretation is not limited to situations where the sense and scope of a provision are not clear. It extends to any application of the law. The latter supposes an understanding of what is demanded by a provision. It thus implies logically an act of interpretation, even if it may pass unaware. The judgment that a provision is ‘clear’ supposes itself some form of interpretation, since it can only be made if and when the provision has been understood in any given way. This judgment is therefore necessarily based on an interpretation. There is thus interpretation in the narrower sense, which seeks to ascertain the legal sense of a provision in case of doubts on the meaning; and there is interpretation in the broader sense, which seeks to understand the legal meaning of a provision in order to be able to apply it. Interpretation can thus be generally defined as follows: ‘Intellectual operation by which one seeks to discover the legal meaning of a provision.’ The point to be noticed is that there is no way of escaping from interpretation when one deals with legal provisions.

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