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Reservations to Human Rights Treaties: Time for Innovation and Reform

  • William A. Schabas (a1)

Sommaire

La pratique répandue de la formulation de réserves aux conventions internationales des droits de la personne est une préoccupation des organes de contrôle. Les règles coutumières concernant des réserves, qui sont codifiées dans la Convention de Vienne sur le droit des traités, sont inappropriées pour un régime de protection des droits de la personne où la réciprocité des obligations est d'une importance mitigée. Lors de la ratification du Pacte international relatif aux droits civils et politiques, les États-Unis ont formulé une série de réserves. Ceci a provoqué que le Comité des droits de l'homme aborde le sujet dans une observation générale. Le Comité propose des critères d'application du test de l'objet et le but du traité. Il constate que des réserves aux dispositions non-dérogeables sont acceptables. Toutefois, aucune réserve ne peut être formulée à l'égard d'une norme coutumière. De plus, le Comité clarifie la situation quant à la compétence des organes de contrôle de se prononcer sur la légalité des réserves. Mais la conséquence d'une réserve illégale demeure incertaine. L'intention réelle de l'état en question doit être établie afin de déterminer si l'état sera lié par le traité, et ce malgré l'incompatibilité de sa réserve. Une pratique en évolution suggère que les états peuvent reformuler ou amender des réserves après la ratification, même si la Convention de Vienne n'autorise pas une telle démarche.

Summary

The widespread practice of making reservations to international human rights treaties has become an important issue for treaty bodies. The customary rules governing reservations, codified in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, are largely inappropriate to a human rights regime in which reàproàty of obligations is of limited consequence. Since, upon ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the United States formulated a series of broad reservations, the Human Rights Committee has addressed the issue in a General Comment. The Committee suggests a number of guidelines for applying the “object and purpose” test, noting that reservations to non-derogable provisions may be permitted. However, it insists that no reservation may be made to a customary norm that has been included within a human rights treaty. Furthermore, the Committee clarifies the confusion among treaty bodies as to their competence to pronounce on the legality of reservations. Nevertheless, the consequences of illegal reservations remain quite uncertain. The genuine intent of a ratifying state must be examined to determine whether it is bound by the treaty as a whole, once its reservation has been declared incompatible. An emerging practice suggests that States may reformulate or amend reservations subsequent to ratification, despite terms to the contrary in the Vienna Convention.

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1 Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Dec. 10, 1984, [1987] C.T.S. No. 36, G.A. Res. 39/46, Art. 25; Convention on the Rights of the Child, Nov. 20, 1989, [1992] C.T.S. No. 3, G.A. Res. 44/25, Art. 46. Earlier human rights treaties were somewhat restrictive, requiring as a prerequisite to adhesion that the state be a United Nations member (Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Dec. 9, 1948, [1948] C.T.S. No. 27, 78 U.N.T.S. 277, Art. 11), or a member of a specialized United Nations body (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Dec. 16, 1966, [1946] C.T.S. No. 46, 999 U.N.T.S. 171 [hereinafter International Covenant or Covenant], Art. 48 §1; International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Dec. 21, 1965, [1969] C.T.S. No. 28, 660 U.N.T.S. 195, Art. 17 §1).

2 Art. 2 §1 d of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, May 23, 1969,1155 U.N.T.S. 331 defines a reservation as “a unilateral statement, however phrased or named, made by a State, when signing, ratifying, accepting, approving or acceding to a treaty, whereby it purports to exclude or to modify the legal effect of certain provisions of the treaty in their application to that State.” In this respect, content triumphs over form. An “interpretative declaration” will be deemed a reservation if it purports to modify or exclude the legal effect of a treaty, as was stated by the European Court of Human Rights in Belilos Case (1988), Eur. Ct. H.R. Ser. A, No. 132, 10 E.H.R.R. 466, 88 I.L.R. 635. The same rule has been accepted by the Human Rights Committee: “General Comment No. 24 (52),” UN Doc. CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.6, at §3; T. K. v. France (No. 220/1987), UN Doc. A/45/40, Vol. II, p. 118 at §8.6. See also: Macdonald, R. St. J., “Reservations Under the European Convention on Human Rights” (1988) 21 Rev. B.D.I. 428 ; Mcrae, Donald, “The Legal Effect of Interpretative Declarations” (1978) 49 British Yearbook of International Law 160 ; Zoller, E., “L’affaire de la délimitation du plateau continental entre la France et la Grande-Bretagne” (1977) Ann. fran. dr. int. 370 ; Imbert, P.-H., “La question des réserves dans la décision arbitrale du 30 juin 1977,” (1978) Ann. fran. dr. int. 29 ; Quéneudec, J.-P., “L’affaire de la délimitation du plateau continental entre la France et le Royaume-Uni” (1983) 83 R.G.D. Int. P. 53 ; Cohen-Jonathan, Gerald, “Les réserves à la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme (à propos de l’arrêt Belilos du 29 avril 1988)” (1989) 93 R.G.D. Int. P. 273 ; Merrills, J. G., “Belilos Case” (1988) 69 British Yearbook of International Law 386 ; Bourguignon, Henry J., “The Belilos Case: New Light on Reservations to Multilateral Treaties” (1989) 29 Va. J. Int’l L. 347 ; Marks, Susan, “Reservations Unhinged: the Belilos Case before the European Court of Human Rights” (1990) 39 I.C.L.Q. 300.

3 On reservations generally, see Holloway, Kaye, Les reserves dans les traités multilatéraux (Paris: L.G.D.J., 1958); Imbert, Pierre-Henri, Les réserves aux traités multilatéraux (Paris: Pedone, 1979); Horn, Frank, Reservations and Interpretative Declarations to Multilateral Treaties (Amsterdam: Elsevier Science Publishers, 1988); Fitzmaurice, G., “Reservations to Multilateral Conventions” (1953) 2 I.C.L.Q. 1 ; Bishop, W., “Reservations to Treaties” (1961) 103 Ree. des Cours 245 ; Anderson, D., “Reservations to Multilateral Conventions — A Reexamination” (1964) 13 I.C.L.Q. 450 ; Nisot, J., “Les réserves aux traités et la Convention de Vienne du 23 mai 1969,” [1973] R.G.D. Int’l P. 200 ; Ruda, J. M., “Reservations to Treaties” (1975) 146 Rec. des Cours 95 ; Bowett, D. W., “Reservations to Non-Restricted Multilateral Treaties” (1976–77) 48 British Yearbook of International Law 155 ; Gamble, J. K. Jr., “Reservations to Multilateral Treaties — A Macroscopic View of State Practice” (1980) 74 AJIL 372 ; Teboul, G., “Remarques sur les réserves aux conventions de codification” [1982] R.G.D. Int’l P. 679 ; Shelton, Dinah, “Reservations to Human Rights Treaties” [1983] Canadian Human Rights Yearbook 205 ; Hylton, Daniel N., “Default Breakdown: The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties’ Inadequate Framework on Reservations” (1994) 27 Vand. J. Transnat’l L. 419 ; Coccia, Massimo, “Reservations to Multilateral Treaties on Human Rights” (1985) 15 Calif. W. Int’l L.J. 1.

4 “Effective implementation of international instruments on human rights, including reporting obligations under international instruments on human rights,” UN Doc. A/47/628, at §60.

5 International Covenant, supra note 1.

6 Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Dec. 16, 1966, [1966] C.T.S. No. 46, 999 U.N.T.S. 171; Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Aimed at Abolition of the Death Penalty, Dec. 29, 1989, G.A. Res. 44/128, 291.L.M. 1464.

7 General Comment No. 24 (52), supra note 2 at §1. The Human Rights Committee’s interest in the question of reservations was probably provoked by the reservations formulated by the United States of America, and specifically those to Arts. 6 and 7 of the Covenant, which concern use of the death penalty. Eleven European states have objected to the United States’ reservations to these provisions. The Committee will be required to address the issue shordy, when the United States presents its initial report under Art 40 of the Covenant. See also Schabas, William A., “Les réserves des Etats-Unis d’Amérique aux articles 6 et 7 du Pacte international relatif aux droits civils et politiques” (1994) 6 Rev. U.D.H. 137 ; Stewart, David P., “U.S. Ratification of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: The Significance of the Reservations, Understandings and Declarations” (1993) 14 HRLJ 77 ; Nanda, V. P., “The U.S. Reservation to the Ban on the Death Penalty for Juvenile Offenders: An Appraisal under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” (1993) 42 Depaul L. Rev. 1311 ; Sherman, E. F. Jr., “The U.S. Death Penalty Reservation to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights — Exposing the Limitations of the Flexible System Governing Treaty Formation” (1994) 29 Texas Int’l L.J. 69 ; Quigley, John, “Criminal Law and Human Rights: Implications of the United States Ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” (1993) 6 Harv. Hum. Rts. J. 59.

8 Reservations, declarations, and objections to the International Covenant, as well as to other human rights treaties in the United Nations system, are published in an annual volume, “Multilateral Treaties deposited with the Secretary-general,” UN Doc. ST/LEG/SER.E/11 (1992) [hereinafter “Multilateral Treaties”]. For the Covenant, a complete list is also published in Manfred Nowak, CCPR Commentary (Kehl: Engel, 1993).

9 Canada has formulated reservations to Art. 21 (concerning adoption in indigenous families) and to Art. 37(c) (concerning separation detention for adults and children), as well as a declaration with respect to Art. 30 (minority rights and indigenous peoples). See the discussion of the Committee on the Rights of the Child with respect to reservations in its latest annual report- UN Doc. A/49/41, at §§525–534.

10 Dec. 18, 1979, [1982] C.T.S. No. 31, 1249 U.N.T.S. 13. See also Belinda Clark, “The Vienna Convention Reservations Regime and the Convention on Discrimination Against Women” (1991) 85 AJIL 281; Cook, Rebecca, “Reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women” (1990) 30 Va. J. Int’l L. 643 ; Sudre, Frédéric, Droit international et européen des droits de l’homme 9798 (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1989).

11 As of Aug. 1, 1994: UN Doc. A/49/308.

12 Interest in the issue has also been manifested by the International Law Commission, which has added “The law and practice relating to reservations to treaties” to its agenda, and appointed Prof. Alain Pellet as special rapporteur on the topic: UN Doc. A/49/10, at §382. The decision to add the topic to its agenda was endorsed by the General Assembly: UN Doc. A/RES/48/31, Art. 7.

13 UN Doc. A/47/628, at §36 at §§60–65.

14 UN Doc. A/47/38, at 11.

15 “Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action,” UN Doc. A/CONF. 157/24 (Part I), chap. 3, 14 HRLJ 352.

16 Ibid.

17 Supra note 1. See also the resolution of the General Assembly: UN Doc. A/RES/47/112, art. 7, and Commission on Human Rights resolution 1992/75.

18 Supra note 10. See also the resolution of the General Assembly: UN Doc. A/RES/48/104, Art. 4(a).

19 Although the spectre of denunciation is regularly invoked in the context of human rights treaties, states rarely resort to this ultimate weapon. The dictatorial regime that took power in Greece in the late ig6os denounced the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Nov. 4, 1950, Eur. T.S. 5, 213 U.N.T.S. 221 [hereinafter European Convention of Human Rights or European Convention] ((1968) 12 Y.B. Eur. Conv. H.R. 78–83); when democracy was restored in 1974, Greece ratified the Convention again ((1974) 17 Y.B. Eur. Conv. H.R. 2–3). There were rumblings in Switzerland about denunciation of the European Convention after the European Court of Human Rights declared that country’s reservation to Art. 6 § 1 of the Convention to be inadmissible. Note that denunciation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is not provided for specifically and, according to some scholars, is impossible: Manfred Nowak, CCPR Commentary, supra note 8 at §26.

20 Belilos Case, supra note 2, in the case of the European Court of Human Rights. General Comment No. 24 (52), supra note 2, for the Human Rights Committee. See also “The Effect of Reservations on the Entry into Force of the American Convention (arts. 74 and 75)” (1982) Int. Am Ct. H.R. Advisory Opinion OC-2/82, Ser. A, No. 2, 67 I.L.R. 559, 22 I.L.M. 37 at §§29–30, for the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

21 Flauss, Jean-François, “Le contentieux de la validité des réserves à la CEDH devant le tribunal fédéral suisse: Requiem pour la déclaration interprétative relative à l’article 6 §1” (1993) 5 Rev. U.D.H. 297.

22 Reservations to the Convention on the Prevention of Genocide (Advisory Opinion), [1951] I.C.J. Rep. 16. See also G A. Res. 598(6).

23 An application under Art. 9 was filed in March 1993 by Bosnia against Serbia: Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genodde, (Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)), Order of 8 April 1993, [1993] I.C.J. Rep. 3; Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, (Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)), Order of 13 Sept. 1993, [1993] I.C.J. Rep. 325. See Gray, Christine, “Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro))” (1994) 43 I.C.L.Q. 704.

24 Reservations to the Convention on the Prevention of Genocide (Advisory Opinion), supra note 22 at 21.

25 Ibid., 24.

26 Supra note 2, Arts. 19–23.

27 Apr. 28, 1983, Eur. T.S. no. 114, Art. 4. See also Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery, Sept. 7, 1956, [1963] C.T.S. No. 7, 266 U.N.T.S. 3, Art. 9; UNESCO Convention Against Discrimination in Education, Dec. 14, i960, 429 U.N.T.S. 93, Art. 9.7.

28 Supra note 6, Art. 2. See General Comment No. 24 (52), supra note 2 at §15. Similar provisions appear in: Convention on the Political Rights of Women, Mar. 31, 1953, [1957] C.T.S. No. 3, 193 R.T.N.U. 135, Art. 7; Convention Relating to die Status of Refugees, July 25, 1951, [1969] C.T.S. No. 29, 189 U.N.T.S. 137, Art. 42 §1; Convention on the Nationality of Married Women, Jan. 29, 1957, [1960] C.T.S. No. 2, 309 U.N.T.S. 65, Art. 8; International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, supra note 1, Art. 20; Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, Jan. 31, 1967, [1969] C.T.S. No. 6, 606 U.N.T.S. 267, Art. 7; Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, supra note 10, Art. 28.

29 Spain is the only party to the Second Optional Protocol to have made such a reservation. For the Human Rights Committee’s discussion of reservations to the Second Optional Protocol, see General Comment No. 24 (52), supra note 2 at §15.

30 E.g., Convention on the Rights of the Child, supra note 1, Art. 51. According to the travaux préparatoires, some states suggested that reference to the “object and purpose” test was unnecessary because it appeared in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. Others argued that some states were not yet parties to the Vienna Convention, and that it was therefore prudent to include such a provision. See UN Doc. E/CN.4/1989/48, at §§678–82.

31 E.g., American Convention on Human Rights, Nov. 22, 1969, 1144 U.N.T.S. 123, O.A.S.T.S. 36, Art. 75.

32 E.g., International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, supra note 1; African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights, June 17, 1981, O.A.U. Doc. CAB/ LEG/67/3 rev. 5, 4 E.H.R.R. 417, 21 I.L.M. 58.

33 General Comment No. 24 (52), supra note 2 at §6.

34 Ibid. The General Assembly had requested the Commission on Human Rights to include a provision authorizing reservations in the draft Covenant: G.A. Res. 546(6). Denmark and the United Kingdom proposed a reservations provision similar to the text of Art. 64 of the European Convention on Human Rights, but this was not retained: UN Doc. E/CN.4/SR.197; UN Doc. E/CN.4/L.345; UN Doc. E/CN.4/677, at §9; UN Doc. E/2573, at §§262-305; UN Doc. A/6546 at §§142–43.

35 Supra note 2; also, Art. 33 §4. The expression “object and purpose” is also found in Art. 18, whereby a state “is obliged to refrain from acts which would defeat the object and purpose of a treaty” if it has signed the treaty or agreed to be bound by it. Art. 41(b)(ii) permits two states to a multilateral treaty to modify its terms, if the modification “does not relate to a provision, derogation from which is incompatible with the effective execution of the object and purpose of the treaty as a whole.” Under Art 58(b)(ii), two parties to a multilateral treaty may suspend certain of its terms if this “is not incompatible with the object and purpose of the treaty.” Under Art. 60 §3 (b), a treaty may be suspended for a material breach, which is defined as “the violation of a provision essential to the accomplishment of the object or purpose of the treaty.”

36 Supra note 2, Art. 31 §2.

37 Ibid., Art. 31 §3(b).

38 Ibid., Art. 32.

39 General Comment No. 24 (52), supra note 2 at §8.

40 Vienna Convention, supra note 2, Arts. 53 and 64.

41 Belilos Case, supra note 2. See also Imbert, Pierre-Henri, “La question des réserves et les conventions en madère de droits de l’homme,” in Actes du ànquième cottoque international sur la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme 99 (Paris: Pedone, 1982).

42 General Comment No. 24 (52), supra note 2 at §10.

43 Conference on Yugoslavia Arbitration Committee Opinion No. 1, (1992) 31 I.L.M. 1494 at 1496, 92 I.L.R. 162; Conference on Yugoslavia Arbitration Commission, Opinion No. 2 ( 1992) 31 I.L.M. 1497 at 1498, 92 I.L.R. 167. See also Alain Pellet, “Note sur la Commission d’arbitrage de la Conférence européenne pour la paix en Yougoslavie” (1991) 37 Ann. fran. dr. int. 329; Pellet, Alain, “L’activité de la Commission d’arbitrage de la Conférence européenne pour la paix en Yougoslavie” (1992) 38 Ann. fran. dr. int. 220.

44 Case 9647 (United States) (1987), Inter-Am. Comm. H.R. Res. No. 3/87, Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: 1986–1987, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.71 Doc. 9 rev.I (1987) 147, Inter-American Yearbook on Human Rights, 1987 328 (Dordrecht/Boston/London: Martinus Nijhoff, 1990), 8 HRLJ 345 at §60. See also Dinah Shelton, “Note” ( 1987) 8 HRLJ 355; Shelton, Dinah, “The Prohibition of Juvenile Executions in International Law” (1987) 58 Rev. I.D.P. 773 ; Weissbrodt, David, “Execution of Juvenile Offenders by the United States Violates International Human Rights Law” (1988) 3 Am. U.J. Int’l L. & Pol’y 339 . See also the reply to Professor Weissbrodt’s criticism of the Inter-American Commission’s report in Case 9647 (“Roach and Pinkerton”) by a lawyer for the Commission: Cerna, Christina M., “U.S. Death Penalty Tested Before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights” (1992) 10 Netherl. Q.H.R. 155.

45 Multilateral Treaties, supra note 8 at 106–107.

46 European Convention of Human Rights, supra note 19, Art. 15 §2; American Convention on Human Rights, supra note 31, Art. 27 §2.

47 See also the comments of Pereira, A. and Zanghi, C., and the reply by Imbert, P. H., in Actes du dnquième colloque international sur la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme, supra note 41 at 160, 173–74, 178–79.

48 Multilateral Treaties, supra note 8 at 125.

49 Ibid., 133–34.

50 Similar statements were made by Denmark, Norway, and Finland.

51 There are several examples with respect to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Norway and Ireland have formulated reservations to Art. 6 (right to life), Italy, Germany, and Argentina have formulated reservations to Art. 15 (non-retroactivity of criminal law), Mexico has formulated a reservation to Art. 18 (religious freedom), and Trinidad and Tobago have reserved Art. 15 §1. In the context of the European Convention on Human Rights, Malta (590 U.N.T.S. 301) has formulated a reservation to Art. 2 (right to life). Also, Barbados (1298 U.N.T.S. 441), Guatemala (1144 U.N.T.S. 210; this reservation has since been withdrawn: O.A.S. Doc. OEA/Ser.L/V/II.68 Doc.8 rev.i at 158), and Trinidad and Tobago (O.A.S. Doc. OEA/Ser.L/V/II.81 rev.1 Doc.6 at 335) have made reservations to Art 4 (right to life) of the American Convention on Human Rights.

52 Restrictions to the Death Penalty (Arts. 4 §2 and 4 §4 American Convention on Human Rights) (1983), Int. Am Ct. H.R. Advisory Opinion OC-3/83, Ser. A No. 3, 4 HRLJ 352, 70 I.L.R. 449.

53 The reservation states: “The Government of the Republic of Guatemala ratifies the American Convention on Human Rights, signed in San José, Costa Rica, on the 22nd of November of 1969, making a reservation with regard to Article 4, paragraph 4 of the same, inasmuch as the Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala, in its Article 54, only excludes from the application of the death penalty, political crimes, but not common crimes related to political crimes”: 1144 U.N.T.S. 210. Art. 4 §4 provides: “In no case shall capital punishment be inflicted for political offenses or related common crimes.”

54 Case 8094 (Guatemala), Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: 1983–84, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.66 Doc. 10 rev.1 at 81–84.

55 Restrictions to the Death Penalty (Arts. 4§2 and 4§4 American Convention on Human Rights), supra note 52 at 155–60, 164. See also Leigh, Monroe, “American Convention on Human Rights — Advisory Jurisdiction — Effect of a Reservation — Death Penalty,” (1984) 78 AJIL 681.

56 Ibid., §74.

57 Vienna Convention, supra note 2, Art. 20 §1.

58 Restriaions to the Death Penalty (Arts. 4 §2 and 4 §4 American Convention on Human Rights), supra note 52 at §61.

59 General Comment No. 24 (52), supra note 2 at §12.

60 Ibid., §8.

61 Case 228/1987, UN Doc. A/43/40 at 257.

62 Case No. 9647 (United States), supra note 44.

63 Convention on the Rights of the Child, supra note 1, Art. 1.

64 Higgins, Rosalyn, Problems and Process, International Law and How We Use It 103 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994).

65 India has formulated a reservation to Art. 1 of the Covenant (as well as to the identical Art 1 in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Dec. 16 1966, [1976] C.T.S. No. 46, 993 R.T.N.U. 3. The Federal Republic of Germany, France, and the Netherlands have objected to this reservation as being contrary to the object and purpose of the treaties.

66 Frowein, Jochen A., “Self-Determination as a Limit to Obligations Under International Law,” in Tomuschat, Christian, ed., Modern Law of Self-Détermination 211 at 218–21 (Dordrecht: Nijhoff, 1993); Espiell, Hector Gros, “The Right to Self-Determination, Implementation of United Nations Resolutions,” UN Doc. E/CN.4/Sub.2/405/Rev.1, UN Sales No. E.79.XIV.5 (1980) at 11 ; Cassese, A., “The Self-Determination of Peoples,” in Henkin, L. (ed.), The International Bill of Rights 96 at 111 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981); Kiss, A.-C., “The Peoples’ Right to Self-Determination” (1986) 7 HRLJ 174 ; Pomerance, Michla, Self-Determination in Law and Practice 6372 (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1982).

67 Meron, Theodor, “The Geneva Conventions as Customary Law” (1987) 81 AJIL 348 at 361.

68 Multilateral Treaties, supra note 8 at 134.

69 E.g., see Austria’s reservation to Art. 12 of the Covenant. In some cases, such as the European Convention on Human Rights, supra note 19, Art. 64, this is a requirement of the treaty. On reservations to the European Convention, see R. St. J. Macdonald, supra note 2; Schabas, William A., “Article 64,” in Pettiti, L. E., Decaux, E., Imbert, P.-H., La Convention européenne des droits de l’homme, théorie et pratique (Paris: Economica, 1995), 923–44; Frowein, J. Abr., “Reservations to the European Convention on Human Rights,” in Matscher, Franz, Petzold, Herbert, Protecting Human Rights: The European Dimension; Mélanges en l’honneur de Gérard J. Wiarda 193 (Cologne: Carl Heymanns, 1988); Marcus-Helmons, S., “L’article 64 de la Convention de Rome ou Les réserves à la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme” (1968) 45 Rev. D.I. & D.C. 7.

70 On the unacceptability of vague or imprecise reservations, see Temeltasch v. Switzerland (No. 9116/80) (1983), 31 Eur. Comm. H.R. D.R. 120, 5 E.H.R.R. 417, 88 I.L.R. 619; Imbert, Pierre-Henri, “Les réserves à la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme devant la Commission de Strasbourg (Affaire Temeltasch),” [1983] R.D.I.P. 580 .

71 Multilateral Treaties, supra note 8 at 193.

72 “Supplement to ST/LEG/SER.E/12,” furnished by United Nations Headquarters, Aug. 2, 1994.

73 Multilateral Treaties, supra note 8 at 190.

74 Ibid., 194–95.

75 “Supplement to ST/LEG/SER.E/12,” furnished by United Nations Headquarters, Aug. 2, 1994.

76 Ibid.

77 Ibid.

78 Multilateral Treaties, supra note 8 at 94.

79 Italy, Mexico, United Kingdom: Multilateral Treaties, supra note 8 at 94–97.

80 Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, United States of America (at the time of signature), Guyana, Papua-New Guinea: Multilateral Treaties, supra note 8 at 100–106.

81 “Supplement to ST/LEG/SER.E/12,” furnished by United Nations Headquarters, Aug. 2, 1994. It was also invoked by Committee rapporteur Marta Santos Pais: UN Doc. CRC/C/SR.41 at §24. See also objections by Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Mexico, Norway, and the Netherlands to the reservations by the United States of America to the Genocide Convention, which cite Art. 27 of the Vienna Convention or allude to it: Multilateral Treaties, supra note 8 at 94–97.

82 Ibid., 133.

83 General Comment No. 24 (52), supra note 2 at §19.

84 Ibid.

85 Ibid., §12. Also §19.

86 Ibid.

87 Ibid., §19.

88 Ibid., §20.

89 Ibid., §12.

90 Ibid., §11.

91 A similar provision appears in Art. 22 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, supra note 1. There have been several reservations to this provision: Multilateral Treaties, supra note 8 at 106–109.

92 Many parties to the Genocide Convention, supra note 1, have formulated reservations to Art. 9: Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Bahrein, Bulgaria, China, Spain, United States of America, India, Morocco, Poland, Rumania, Rwanda, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen: ibid, at 92–94.

93 Ibid., 96–97. See also the position taken by the Agent for Pakistan in Case concerning Trial of Pakistani Prisoners of War (Pakistan v. India), [1973] I.C.J. Pleadings 1 at 118–120.

94 Ibid., 96.

95 General Comment No. 24 (52), supra note 2 at §13.

96 Ibid.

97 Multilateral Treaties, supra note 8 at 154–56.

98 See, e.g., the declarations of Chile, France, Malta, and the USSR: idid.

99 General Comment No. 24 (52), supra note 2 at §14.

100 Mcgoldrick, Dominic, The Human Rights Committee 184–86 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991). The states are Austria, Denmark, France, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Poland, Russian Federation, Spain, and Sweden.

101 Caneado Trindade, A. A., “Co-existence and Co-ordination of Mechanisms of International Protection of Human Rights (at global and regional levels)” (1987) 202 Rec. des Cours 1 at 165–76.

102 General Comment No. 24 (52), supra note 2 at §14. See also K. and C. V. v. Germany (no. 568/1993), unreported views of Apr. 8, 1994 at §4.2; V. E. M. v. Spain (no. 467/1991), unreported views of July 16, 1993 at §§4.1 and 5.2.

103 Multilateral Treaties, supra note 8 at 134–36. Also Germany, Belgium, Malta, New Zealand.

104 General Comment No. 24 (52), supra note 2 at §17.

105 Vienna Convention, supra note 2, Art. 20 §1.

106 Ibid. Art. 20 §2. In such cases, a reservation must be accepted by all of the parties.

107 Ibid. Art 20 §3. In such cases, a reservation “requires the acceptance of the competent organ of the organization.”

108 Ibid. Art. 21 §4, 21 §5.

109 Supra note 1, Art. 20 §2. Although there have been objections to various reservations, sufficient numbers have never been attained for this provision to become operative.

110 Multilateral Treaties, supra note 8 at 130.

111 Ibid., 133–34.

112 1197 U.N.T.S. 414.

113 Multilateral Treaties, supra note 8 at 133–34.

114 Ibid., 129.

115 Ibid., 133–34.

116 Objections by France, Germany, and the Netherlands: ibid. at 127.

117 Objections by Belgium and the Netherlands: supra note 48.

118 Objections by Germany, the Netherlands, and Portugal: Multilateral Treaties, supra note 8 at 124.

119 Ireland v. United Kingdom (1978), Eur. Ct. H.R. Ser. A No. 25, 2 E.H.R.R. 25,59 I.L.R. 188 at §239; Belilos Case, supra note 2 at §62.

120 Pierre-Henri Imbert, supra note 41 at 119; G. Fitzmaurice, supra note 3 at 13–16.

121 Vienna Convention, supra note 2, Arts. 41(b)(ii), 58(b) (ii).

122 Restrictions to the Death Penalty (Arts. 4 §2 and 4 §4 American Convention on Human Rights), supra note 52.

123 “The Effect of Reservations on the Entry into Force of the American Convention (arts. 74 and 75),” supra note 20 at §§29–30.

124 Austria v. Italy (No. 788/60) (1961), 4 Y.B. Eur. Conv. H.R. 116 at 140; see also Cyprus v. Turkey (No. 8007/77) (1979), 21 Y.B. Eur. Conv. H.R. 226.

125 France v. Turfey (Case 9940/82) (1983), 26 Y.B. Eur. Conv. H.R. Part II, Eur. Comm. Case-Law 31 at §42.

126 It had hinted at the same argument in Temeltasch v. Switzerland, supra note 70. See also Cohen-Jonathan, G., La Convention européenne des droits de l’homme 8788 (Paris: Economica, 1990).

127 Belilos Case, supra note 2 at §47.

128 General Comment No. 24 (52), supra note 2 at §17.

129 “… si effectivement les objections aux réserves faites aux conventions relatives aux droits de l’homme n’ont pas du tout la même portée que dans le cadre d’autres conventions, elles ne sont pas pour autant absolument inutiles. Elles peuvent permettre en particulier de s’opposer à l’interprétation d’une disposition qui pourrait résulter des réserves et, d’une manière générale, de préserver la force d’un principe”: Pierre-Henri Imbert, supra note 41 at 116.

130 In this context, mention should also be made of another practice that is eminently political and of no legal significance in a strict sense — namely, the formulation of reservations or declarations that go beyond the obligations found in an instrument. With respect to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Uruguay affirms that it would have preferred the minimum age for military service to be eighteen and not fifteen, as specified in Art. 38 of the treaty. Argentina, Austria, Colombia, and Spain have made similar declarations. Such “reservations” may be of interest in establishing the opinio juris component of customary norms.

131 Nguyen Quoc Dinh, Daillier, P., Pellet, A., Droit international public 178 (4th ed., Paris: L.D.G.J., 1992). For a detailed discussion of this point, see G. Cohen-Jonathan, supra note 2 at 279–86.

132 Pierre-Henri Imbert, supra note 41 at 127–28, 134. Prof. Imbert cites E. Schwelb and R. Higgins in support of his position, but the quotations are not entirely unequivocal.

133 C. L. D. v. France (Case 228/1987), UN Doc. A/43/40 at 257. This is also the view of B. Graefrath, quoted in Manfred Nowak, supra note 8, Introduction at §24.

134 UN Doc. CRC/C/SR.41 at §25.

135 UN Doc. A/33/18 at §374. See also the opinion of the Legal Office of the United Nations to the same effect: U.N. Jur. Y.B., 1976, Chapter 6.A.23 at 219-21; UN Doc. CERD/C/SR.286. This refusal is explained by the fact that the International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination provides expressly for a mechanism for determining the legality of reservations — something that is not present in the Covenant. Nevertheless, given that the Convention provides for individual petitions, should not an individual who files a communication be entided to contest the legality of a reservation? See also Pierre-Henri Imbert, supra note 41 at 124–26.

136 Temeltasch v. Switzerland, supra note 70.

137 Belilos Case, supra note 2 at §47; R. St. J. Macdonald, supra note 2 at 442–43.

138 Ibid., §50. See also Weber Case (1990), Eur. Ct. H.R. Ser. A, No. 177. See also R. St J. Macdonald, supra note 2 at 442.

139 R. St J. Macdonald, supra note 2 at 442.

140 E.g., Finland: Report to the Human Rights Committee, UN Doc A/34/40 at §394; Australia: Report to the Human Rights Committee, UN Doc A/38/40 at §138; France: Report of the Human Rights Committee, UN Doc A/38/40 at §315. See Dinah Shelton, supra note 44 at 230–31.

141 C.L.D. v. France, supra note 133 at 257.

142 Ibid., 255.

143 T.K. v. France, supra note 2 at §8.6; see also M. K. v. France (no. 222/1987), UN Doc. A/45/40, Vol. II at 127, and C. L. D. v. France, supra note 133 at §4.3. In T. K. and M. K.; note the dissenting views of Rosalyn Higgins, who stressed the Committee’s competence to rule on whether the statement was a declaration or a reservation.

144 During the presentation of periodic reports, members of the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women have questioned states about their reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women: e.g., UN Doc. A/39/45, Vol. II at §190 (initial report of Egypt) ; UN Doc. A/44/38 at §74 (initial report of Ireland) ; UN Doc. A/44/38 at §273 (initial report of Belgium). More recently, the Committee has in effect declared that certain reservations are unacceptable — e.g., the general reservation by the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya concerning the Shariah: UN Doc. A/49/38 at §130.

145 For an example of that body’s hesitant approach, see “Initial Report of Egypt,” UN Doc. CRC/C/3/Add.6 at §174; “Preliminary Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: Egypt,” UN Doc. CRC/C/15/Add.5. See also UN Doc. CRC/C/1; UN Doc. CRC/C/SR.66 at §40.

146 Supra note 4 at §36.

147 “Effective implementation of international instruments on human rights, including reporting obligations under international instruments on human rights,” UN Doc. A/49/537 at §30.

148 Multilateral Treaties, supra note 8 at 94–96.

149 This is the position taken by several states that have objected to the United States reservations to the Covenant.

150 Occasionally states will affirm unequivocally that the instrument, including the reserved provision, comes into force: see Denmark’s objection to the reservations by Yemen to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

151 R. St. J. Macdonald, supra note a at 449.

152 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, supra note 1, Art 2 §1.

153 Interhandel case (Switzerland v. United States), [1959] I.C.J. Rep. 6 at 117; see also Judge Lauterpacht’s dissenting opinion in Norwegian Loans Case (France v. Norway), [1957] I.C.J. Rep. 9 at 43–66.

154 Belilos Case, supra note 2 at §60.

155 (1987) 30 Y.B. Eur. Conv. H.R. 8.

156 It was also criticized by scholars: Zanghi, Claudio, “La déclaration de la Turquie relative à l’Article 25 de la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme” (1989) 93 R.G.D. Int’l P. 69 ; Cameron, I., “Turkey and Article 25 of the European Convention on Human Rights” (1988) 37 I.C.L.Q. 887.

157 Chrysostomos, Papachrysostomou, Loizidou v. Turkey (Nos. 15299/89, 15300/89, 15318/89) (1991). 3 Rev. U.D.H. 193.

158 “That the thing may rather have effect than be destroyed”: ibid. at §47.

159 D. W. Bowett, supra note 3 at 76.

160 Ibid., 77.

161 Soering Case (1989), Eur. Ct. H.R. Ser. A, No. 161, 11 E.H.R.R. 439.

162 Kindler v. Canada (no. 470/1991), UN Doc. CCPR/C/48/D/470/1991, 14 HRLJ 307. See also Schabas, William A., “Soering’s Legacy: the Human Rights Committee and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council Take a Walk Down Death Row” (1994) 43 I.C.L.Q. 913.

163 OAS/Ser.K/XVI/1.2, D0C.36; OAS/Ser.K/XVI/1.2, D0C.38, Corr.1; OAS/Ser.K/XVI/1.2, doc.40, Corr.1.

164 Vienna Convention, supra note 2, Art. 18.

165 Supra note 44.

166 Apr. 30, 1948, [1990] C.T.S. No. 23, 119 U.N.T.S. 4; Case 2141 (United States) (1981), Inter-Am. Comm. H.R. Res. No. 23/81, Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: 1980–1981, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.52 doc. 48 (1981), Ten Years of Adivities, 1971–1981, Washington, D.C.: Organization of American States, 1982 at 186, 1 HRLJ 110.

167 See supra note 100.

168 On this issue, see Schabas, William A., “Substantive and Procedural Issues in the Ratification by Canada of the American Convention on Human Rights” (1991) 12 HRLJ 405.

169 Belilos Case, supra note 2, “Verbatim Report of the Public Hearings Held on 26 October 1987,” Eur. Ct H.R. Court Mise (87) 237 at 247.

170 (1988) 31 Y.B. Eur. Conv. H.R. 5.

171 Doc. H/INF (89) 2, Information Sheet No. 24 at 7–8.

172 Doc. H/INF (92) 1, Information Sheet No. 29 at 1.

173 Supra note 19, Art. 64 §1.

174 Supra note 2, Art. 2 §1(d).

175 Chorherr v. Austria (1993), Eur. Ct. H.R. Ser. A, No. 266-B at 42.

176 Ibid.

177 Ibid.

178 Supra note 4 at §16. See also decision 1991/115 and resolution 1992/3 of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. The proposal began in the Sub-Commission’s Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery: see UN Doc. E/CN.4/Sub.2/1991/41 at §§51–56, Annex C; UN Doc. E/CN.4/Sub.2/1991/SR.33/Add.1 at §43, although the idea appears to have come from Professor Rebecca Cook, supra note 10 at 710–11.

179 General Comment No. 24 (52), supra note 2 at §20.

180 Supra note 4 at §16.

Reservations to Human Rights Treaties: Time for Innovation and Reform

  • William A. Schabas (a1)

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