Critical Evaluation of the ICJ Approach in Evolutionary Interpretation

Document Type : Original Article


Instructor, PhD in International Law from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, Switzerland


This article aims to evaluate the underlying foundation of the reasoning of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on evolutionary interpretation of treaties. The paper questions the common narrative on the evolutionary interpretation based on the generic nature of terms and the presumed intention. It argues that the decision about genericity of terms cannot be decided on the basis of the textual interpretation of the terms of a treaty. Nor, the intention of the parties or the presumed intention can provide the proper ground for making such a decision, as the intention of a writer is always constructed by the reader. Based on the idea that interpretation of law is an act within the legal sphere that follows the rationality of that legal system, the paper argues that what determines the content of a norm to evolve in time is its legal nature considered together with the purpose it aims to serve within the ambit of a legal system.


  1. Refrences


    1. Aegean Sea Continental Shelf (Aegean Sea) Judgment [1978] I.C.J. Rep. p. 3.
    2. Boundary dispute between Argentina and Chile concerning the frontier line between boundary post 62 and Mount Fitzroy, Award [1994].
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    UN Documents

    1. Fragmentation of International Law: Difficulties Arising from the Diversification and Expansion of International Law, Report of the Study Group of the International Law Commission (ILC), finalized by Martti KOSKENNIEMI, UN Doc. A/CN.4/L/682 (2006).
    2. Fragmentation of international law: difficulties arising from the diversification and expansion of international law, Report of the Study Group of the International Law Commission (ILC) UN Doc. A/CN.4/L.702, 18 July 2006, at 22-23. 
    3. The Montevideo Treaty of 7 April 1961, concerning the boundary constituted by the River Uruguay, United Nations, Treaty Series (UNTS), Vol. 1295, No. I-21425.



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