Entrenching Peace in Law: Do Peace Agreements Possess International Legal Status?
40 Pages Posted: 23 Nov 2020 Last revised: 10 Dec 2020
Date Written: September 26, 2020
Some 600 peace agreements have been concluded between governments and armed opposition groups since 1990. These agreements often do not fulfil the criteria of sources in domestic or international law: they are negotiated outside the established law-making channels of domestic law and are signed by armed opposition groups, which are traditionally not accorded treaty-making capacity in international law. Yet, many scholars contend that the international legal status of peace agreements should be recognized either as international(ised) or hybrid agreements. In some peace processes, negotiating parties also intend to attach international legal status to their agreement. Consequently, a rich repertoire has emerged on the question of the international legal status of peace agreements across the practice of peacemaking, United Nations Security Council practice, domestic and international judicial and arbitral decisions, and scholarship. Providing a comprehensive examination of this repertoire, this article demonstrates that peace agreements are not yet attributed legal status in international law. However, it is also explained that the lack of international legal status of peace agreements does not yield their conclusion and implementation as precarious as is often feared. Attaching international legal status to peace agreements would neither shield them from all domestic and international judicial challenges, nor necessarily function as an incentive to conclude and comply with a peace agreement. The article concludes on the note that the lack of international legal status does not relegate peace agreements to ‘scraps of paper’ as the implementation of peace agreements can be enhanced by incorporation into domestic law and through international oversight mechanisms, including the tools at the disposal of the UNSC.
Keywords: peace agreements, peacemaking, armed opposition groups, non-state actors, sources of international law, treaty-making, Security Council
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