Treaty Interpretation at the Human Rights Committee: Reconciling International Law and Normativity

David H. Moore - Brigham Young University, J. Reuben Clark Law School
Vol. 56
February 2023
Page 1311

The Human Rights Committee, the expert body overseeing states’ compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”), is a key institution in the international human rights architecture. The Committee’s work requires constant interpretation of the ICCPR’s human rights guarantees. While international law dictates how to interpret treaty provisions, including those of the ICCPR, the Committee does not consistently follow the international law of treaty interpretation. Rather, normativity plays an influential role in the Committee’s interpretations. This approach is not uniformly negative; it has both costs and benefits. To minimize the costs, however, this Article identifies a path by which the Committee could both comply with the international law of treaty interpretation and influence the normative development of human rights obligations. Adoption of this path would strengthen the Committee’s legitimacy and impact, key considerations at a time when human rights are under strain.

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