Description

The objective of this workshop is to address two interrelated questions when it comes to the interpretation of customary international law (CIL):

  1.  What is the role of interpretation in the construction/concretization of a CIL rule? and
  2. How can interpretation contribute to the normative development of international law?

With question (i), participants are asked to reflect on the role of interpretation in the construction of CIL rules, the concretization of their content, and their potential evolution. This question has an inward-looking focus, in that it examines how interpretation shapes customary rules. With question (ii), participants are asked to reflect on the role of interpretation more broadly in the system of international law. This question has an outward-looking ‘bird’s eye’ perspective, in that it examines how the interpretation of customary rules affects the practice and development of international law, including potentially the role of interpretation as a strategic tool for change. In approaching either of these two questions, participants are invited to employ the analytical lens of “interpretation as a tool”.

Format

The workshop is divided in two panels, each dedicated to one of the overarching research questions. Within each panel, the speakers are invited to reflect on several sub-points related to the overarching research question. The panels are organized in the format of a moderated roundtable discussion. In this format, the panelists will be invited to comment on a set of questions posed by the chair of their panel. The chair will ask one question at a time, after which the floor will be given to each panelist. In this way, we hope to foster a more interactive discussion, in which the panelists will be able to both engage with each question and with each other.

Panel I: Interpretation as a tool in the construction of CIL rules

Overarching research question: What is the role of interpretation in the construction/concretization of a CIL rule?

Description

Panel I is focused on the inward-looking perspective of how interpretation shapes rules of CIL. Here, speakers are invited to reflect on the question how interpretation contributes to the construction or concretization of CIL rules, as well as to their evolution. The aim here is to reflect on interpretation as a constructive exercise when it comes to customary law.

Discussion Questions

  • What is the role of interpretation as a constructive tool in the determination of the content of a customary rule?
  • Can interpretation in the context of CIL be considered a process through which specific elements of a general customary rule are fleshed out? What are the boundaries between interpretation and the identification of a new separate customary rule in this regard?
  • Does interpretation play a role in the evolution of customary rules? Can interpretation be considered a tool for evolution in the context of customary rules, and if so, what are the boundaries between evolution and modification in this regard?
  • Do we need specialized methods for the interpretation of CIL to capture how interpretation functions in the context of customary rules?

Panel II: CIL Interpretation as a tool in the normative development of international law

Overarching research question: How can/does interpretation contribute to the normative development of international law?

Description

Panel II is focused on the outward-looking ‘bird’s eye’ perspective of how interpretation affects the development of international law more generally. Speakers in this panel are invited to reflect on the role of interpretation in the practice of international law, including the role of interpretation as a strategic tool in litigation. The aim here is to reflect on interpretation as a potential tool in the shaping of international law.

Discussion Questions

  • Is there a role for CIL interpretation as a tool in (domestic) litigation? If so, what are potential uses of interpretation in this regard?
  • Is there a role for CIL interpretation as a tool in the critical legal discourse?
  • Can CIL interpretation be employed as a tool for the pursuit of normative developments or change in the international legal order?
  • What are the potential limits of this mode of thinking about CIL interpretation?

Workshop Schedule

10.30-11.00Registration & Coffee
11.00-11.30Opening Remarks: Panos Merkouris (University of Groningen)
11.30-12.15Keynote Speech: Anne van Aaken (University of Hamburg)
12.15-13.00Lunch Break
13.00-14.30Panel I: Interpretation as a Tool in the Construction of CIL rules

Adil Haque (Rutgers University)
Wouter Werner (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)
Başak Etkin (Université Paris 2 Panthéon-Assas)
Ivo Tarik de Vries-Zou (University of Groningen)
14.30-15.00Coffee Break
15.00-16.30Panel II: CIL Interpretation as a Tool in the Normative Development of International Law

Robert Knox (University of Liverpool)
Luiza Leao Soares Pereira (University of Sheffield)
Johannes Fahner (University of Amsterdam)
Itamar Mann (University of Haifa)
Başak Çalı (Hertie School)

This workshop is part of the project ‘The Rules of Interpretation of Customary International Law’ (‘TRICI-Law’). This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (Grant Agreement No 759728).