International Commissions of Inquiry as Law-Makers

23 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2017

Date Written: January 31, 2017


Many contemporary international commissions of inquiry have been established to investigate suspected violations of international law in order to ensure accountability. When reaching findings, commissions interpret legal norms and apply them to the facts. While commissions remain non-judicial bodies and their reports are not binding, this paper considers whether they may yet participate in the incremental development of international law. Their potential law-making role is examined by reference to formal and informal theoretical perspectives. Considering that the classic theory of sources does not acknowledge the law-making role of interpretation, the paper turns to socio-legal theories and in particular Ingo Venzke’s account of ‘semantic authority’. The paper argues that commissions are capable of bearing semantic authority, with the extent of authority linked to their adherence to markers of legal rationality and the disciplining rules of the practice of legal interpretation.

Keywords: law-making; inquiry, interpretation, semantic authority, interpretive community

Suggested Citation

Harwood, Catherine, International Commissions of Inquiry as Law-Makers (January 31, 2017). European Society of International Law (ESIL) 2016 Research Forum (Istanbul), Available at SSRN: or

Catherine Harwood (Contact Author)

Leiden University ( email )

P.O. Box 9520

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics