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Abstract

The thesis is aimed at providing a new reading of Article 31 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT) by exploring the nature of interpretation, in general, and judicial interpretation, in particular. The main argument of the thesis has a negative and a positive side. On the negative side, it argues that no single method of interpretation (text, context, intentions or purpose) can avoid arbitrariness. On the positive side, through studying legal philosophy and philosophy of language, it demonstrates that interpretation is the reciprocal interaction between the text and the reader with the mediation of tradition. This is reflected in Article 31 by, inter alia, the inclusion of ‘the relevant rules of international law’ as referring to relevant rules as well as relevant legal tradition. The thesis provides a new understanding of the idea of ‘object and purpose’, which seeks to unify all the relevant provisions of Article 31 of the VCLT, as referring to the interplay between the nature of the rule and the purpose it aims to serve. In brief, the thesis argues that interpretation in accordance with Article 31 is a holistic process that starts with investigating the nature of the rule and its purpose. As meaning derives from tradition, such an investigation paves the way for the identification of the ‘relevant’ tradition, which encompasses legal rules as well as soft law. The relevant tradition thus identified, in turn, redetermine the scope of the rule at issue. In doing this, judges follow a discipline of questioning and inquiring in order to hear the claim of the text as addressing them in its own validity while limiting their reasons to those provided by law.

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