Termination of international treaties: a riot of colors beyond the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969)

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Author: Aleхey Ispolinov

DOI: 10.21128/2226-2059-2022-3-75-95

Keywords: international treaty; termination; withdrawal; denunciation; Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties


The present article examines legal issues of termination of and withdrawal from international treaties, a topic traditionally neglected by scholars. The relevant provisions of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties have been taken as a starting point of the analysis. It reveals that the drafters of the Convention, prioritizing the stability of treaties, consciously restricted the permitted grounds for treaty termination and withdrawal and conceived a lengthy and complicated procedure for these. At the same time the current state of treaty practice shows that the rules of the Vienna Convention have not been relied on and that in the vast majority of cases the treaties themselves contain specific provisions for termination and withdrawal. Being lex specialis such treaty provisions prevail in modern state practice and thus raise doubts about whether the relevant provisions of the Vienna Convention properly reflect customary international law. Statistical data on treaty terminations and withdrawals provide sufficient basis to agree with the opinion that termination and withdrawal are not just sporadic and anomalous actions of a few states but are efficient and regularly used tools for adapting treaty relations to changing foreign policy circumstances and priorities. The circumstances of some states’ withdrawals from the human right treaties as well as the European Union’s 2020 Termination agreement ending intra-EU investment agreements confirm that these actions arose from decisions of international courts, quasi-judicial bodies, and arbitration tribunals. In such cases the termination or withdrawal can be considered as the end of a dialogue between a state and an international adjudicative body and as the adjustment of that state’s initial expectations to current reality.

About the author: Aleхey Ispolinov – Doctor of Sciences in Law, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Ispolinov A. (2022) Prekrashchenie mezhdunarodnykh dogovorov: buystvo krasok za ramkami Venskoy konventsii o prave mezhdunarodnykh dogovorov 1969 goda [Termination of international treaties: a riot of colors beyond the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969)]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 75–95. (In Russian).


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