By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
The Holy See has called for the strict interpretation of human rights treaties as codified in the 1969 Vienna Convention, insisting that “any interpretation that goes beyond the text of the treaty is null and void and would be detrimental, if not also counterproductive to the application of the treaty itself.”
Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations and other organizations made this appeal on Wednesday, during the informal consultations on the process of review of the State of UN Human Rights Treaty Body System in Geneva.
Before this latest call, the Archbishop had previously urged the UN to ensure greater “efficiency, transparency, effectiveness and harmonization of working methods” in his intervention to the same body on 22 August.
Appeal for interpretative fidelity
Pointing out that treaty bodies are not judicial organs, nor their members judges, nor their procedures judicial proceedings, Archbishop Jurkovič said that it is “indispensable to ensure the consistency of treaty bodies’ outcomes with general international law and, in particular, with treaty law.”
He said the Holy See’s Delegation is concerned that general comments are often considered, described and invoked as authoritative interpretations of the relevant treaties, and underscored that it is not within the treaty bodies’ mandate to provide interpretations of constitutive instruments or introduce concepts not found in the treaties themselves.
In light of this, the Archbishop appealed for the concluding observations of each human rights treaty body to reflect accurately the interactive dialogue with the State Parties, keeping in mind the specificity and mandates of the respective committees, as well as the views of State parties in accordance with UN Resolution 68/268.
In addition, in drafting their concluding observations, the human rights treaty bodies should “respect fully the rules of interpretation of human rights treaties as codified in the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties,” as human rights treaties set forth “in carefully negotiated language, the obligations that State Parties have voluntarily undertaken.”