Max Planck Encyclopedia of International Procedural Law
Amsterdam Center for International Law No. 2018-10
32 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2018 Last revised: 16 Nov 2018
Date Written: October 11, 2018
Since the law cannot speak, it is the practice of interpretation that brings it to life. Interpretations are claims, supported by arguments, about what the law means. They make and shape international law and are thus part of the struggle for the law. What does the law mean? And who decides? Those are the theoretical and practical terrains on which the idea of authoritative interpretation gains shape. The idea is wrought by the question of whose interpretation matters to what degree.
Section B situates the idea of authoritative interpretation in its historical, political, and social contexts. Section C then focuses on three legal regimes to discuss authoritative interpretations in the narrow, formal sense—ie those interpretations that rest on a conferred competence and are legally binding. Section D focuses on the key legal issues of those authoritative interpretations—their bindingness, the possibility of modifying the law, the role of the rules of interpretation and the relationship with other means of interpretation, especially subsequent agreements and subsequent practice. Section E moves from de jure to de facto authority, illustrates that authority again with examples, and once more discusses the key issues to which it gives rise. Section F concludes.
Keywords: authoritative interpretations, de facto and de jure authority; international financial institutions (IFIs), World Trade Organization (WTO), United Nations Charter (UNC), international investment law, Free Trade Commissions (FTCs), Human Rights Committee, International Courts and Tribunals
JEL Classification: K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation