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Treaty Body Jurisprudence

States parties have a duty of good faith to cooperate with the treaty body as recognized by general principles of treaty law.[1] It is essential that treaty bodies interpret the obligations in light of the domestic situation on the ground, including introduction of new law or reconciliation with existing law. The interaction between a treaty body and a state party is very much an exclusive, interactive process and is best understood as an ongoing dialogue. Thus, treaty bodies function primarily on a bilateral plane.[2] [3] [4] [5] The exception to this rule is the practice of issuing general comments or recommendations, which are intended specifically to provide useful information to all states parties regarding how convention obligations should be implemented.

General comments often are viewed as the ‘attendant product’ to guide states on the scope of treaty obligations.!! in light of the concerns of many states about interference with state sovereignty, the treaty bodies’ obligations to make general comments is possibly the strongest language available to indicate that they are singularly responsible for guiding states’ compliance with a treaty despite the fact that this practice has been repeatedly harpooned by states as an over-extension of their powers.12 General comments address the entirety of states parties, rather than individual states as with the communications or periodic reporting procedures, and they range from mundane matters of internal treaty body functioning to elucidating the appropriate means of protecting particular rights.13

  • [1] Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (Vienna Convention), 1155 UNTS 331, 23 May1969, Art. 26. This is also typically noted within each of the treaty texts.
  • [2] N. Rodley, ‘United Nations Human Rights Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures of theCommission on Human Rights: Complementary or Competition?’, Human Rights Quarterly vol. 25(2003): 882-908 at 887.
  • [3] Rodley (2003): 906.
  • [4] See e.g.: Observations by the United States of America and the United Kingdom on GeneralComment No. 24(52), UN Doc. A/50/40 (1995); reprinted in Human Rights Law Journal vol. 16(1995): 423.
  • [5] Rodley (2003): 888; H. J. Steiner, ‘Individual Claims in a World of Massive Violations: WhatRole for the Human Rights Committee?’, in The Future of UN Human Rights Treaty Monitoring, ed.P. Alston and J. Crawford (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000): 15-53 at 22.
 
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