Commentaries on the Law of Treaties: A Review Essay Reflecting on the Genre of Commentaries
European Journal of International Law (EJIL), 24(4), 1223-1238
Commentaries on international law abound and proliferate. To reflect upon this trend in international legal scholarship, three commentaries on the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties are reviewed. They are compared with regard to the ways in which they deal with three pertinent issues in the law of treaties: the ascertainment of jus cogens norms, the notion of object and purpose and grounds of invalidity, termination, and suspension. As a scholarly genre, commentaries form part of the legal culture of legal systems. So the review discusses their function in the past, in the present, and in their possible future. Their roots lie in the schools working on Roman law in the Middle Ages. They gained importance for international legal scholarship when international law entered the process of codification. Today, commentaries fulfil several functions in international legal discourse, the most important of which is that they structure this discourse. Digitization will seriously impact on all fields of scholarly publishing. The review concludes by discussing the possible changes in this scholarly genre. Those are accessibility, layout, referencing, inclusion of other media, and the possibility of enhanced discourse within the commentary.