Pacta Sunt Servanda versus Flexibility in the Suspension and Termination of Treaties

RESEARCH HANDBOOK ON THE LAW OF TREATIES, pp. 312-340, Christian J Tams, Antonios Tzanakopoulos and Andreas Zimmerman, eds, Edward Elgar, 2014

Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 5/2014

25 Pages Posted: 3 Dec 2013 Last revised: 1 Apr 2015

See all articles by Sotirios Lekkas

Sotirios Lekkas

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law

Antonios Tzanakopoulos

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law

Date Written: December 2, 2013

Abstract

This paper explores the presumptive tension between the pacta sunt servanda rule (the rule that commitments ought to be honoured) and the possibility for unilateral or consensual suspension or termination of treaties. It argues that the pacta sunt servanda rule seems able to accommodate the various methods of suspension or termination: under the general international law of treaties, termination or suspension is not actually unilateral; only the invocation of relevant grounds is. Further, both grounds for suspension or termination, as well as defences under the law of responsibility (which achieve results similar to suspension) are narrow and thus hard to invoke successfully. Finally, the law allows states to devise their own exit clauses in treaties. This leads to very broad exit clauses allowing for unilateral termination or withdrawal. This however being part of the pactum, it does not formally put pressure on the pacta sunt servanda rule.

Keywords: law of treaties, suspension, termination, withdrawal, VCLT, pacta sunt servanda, flexibility

Suggested Citation

Lekkas, Sotirios and Tzanakopoulos, Antonios, Pacta Sunt Servanda versus Flexibility in the Suspension and Termination of Treaties (December 2, 2013). RESEARCH HANDBOOK ON THE LAW OF TREATIES, pp. 312-340, Christian J Tams, Antonios Tzanakopoulos and Andreas Zimmerman, eds, Edward Elgar, 2014, Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 5/2014, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2362526

Sotirios Lekkas

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law ( email )

St Cross Building
St Cross Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 3UL
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/people/sotirios-ioannis-lekkas

Antonios Tzanakopoulos (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law ( email )

St. Cross Building
St. Cross Road
Oxford, OX1 3UJ
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.ox.ac.uk/people/antonios-tzanakopoulos

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