Treaty Exit and Latin America's Constitutional Courts
Posted: 12 Nov 2017 Last revised: 21 Nov 2017
Date Written: October 6, 2017
Constitutional courts in Latin America have used judicial review to enhance the relevance of international law in recent years. Some scholars even speak of a growing “constitutionalization of international law” in the region. But these domestic courts can also act as gatekeepers that blunt or entirely deflect the domestic impact of international law. This essay explores three recent episodes in which constitutional courts joined or led efforts to escape treaty obligations: the Venezuelan Supreme Court’s judgment urging the Chávez administration to denounce the American Convention of Human Rights on constitutional grounds, which Chavez then did in 2012 (a court-inspired treaty exit); the Colombian executive’s 2013 petition to have Colombia’s acceptance of the ICJ’s jurisdiction under the Pact of Bogotá declared unconstitutional (a court legitimated treaty exit), and the Dominican Republic (DR) Constitutional Tribunal’s 2014 judgment holding that the DR’s acceptance of the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court had been unconstitutional (a court-led treaty exit).
Each of the domestic rulings to be discussed were issued in response to an adverse judgment from an international court, and each reflects an effort to quell the international court’s impact by attacking the instrument granting jurisdiction to the court. The essay describes the episodes in context and then analyzes them as a single phenomenon. Taken together, the cases show that in the realm of treaty exit the region’s constitutional courts are drawing on constitutional law to take on a surprisingly prominent foreign affairs role.
Keywords: Latin America, Constitutional Law, Judicial Review, International Law, Columbia, Dominican Republic, Constitutional Tribunal, Inter-American Court, Venezuela
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