Interpreting regional human rights treaties23 Jul 2012
Whether included in national bills of rights or regional or global human rights treaties, human rights are often vague. They require interpretation. The article illustrates how regional human rights tribunals have largely followed the rules for treaty interpretation set out in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. In the interpretation of rights and their limitations the European Court has traditionally put greater emphasis on regional consensus than the Inter-American Court and the African Commission which often look outside their continents to treaties and soft law of the UN and the jurisprudence of other regional tribunals. However, there is a trend towards universalism also in the jurisprudence of the European Court. The article illustrates that the reasoning of the regional tribunals is sometimes inadequate. The quality of the reasoning of the tribunals is important as it provides states and individuals with predictability so that action can be taken to avoid human rights violations. Good reasoning may also help to achieve compliance with the decisions and societal acceptance on controversial issues.