International Treaty

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Treaty, International


an agreement between two or more states or other competent parties of international law, establishing their respective rights and obligations in political, economic, or other relations.

International treaties constitute the major source of inter-national law. International treaties may be bilateral or multilateral, depending on the number of parties to the treaty. Multilateral treaties may be open, meaning that other parties may accede to them on the procedures stipulated in the treaty itself, or they may be closed, meaning that nonsignatory states may accede to it only with the consent of the parties to the treaty. Reservation to an international treaty, stated in a special protocol, may be made at the time the treaty is signed, ratified, or when a state accedes to a previously signed international treaty.

An international treaty is as a rule in the form of a written document and consists of a preamble, stating the motives and goals of the treaty; the specific provisions on the nature of the relation the treaty is to regulate; and concluding articles on the treaty’s duration and mode of prolongation, notice of denunciation^ conditions of its coming into force, and its ratification. A treaty may have an appendix that specifies its main provisions and that has the same juridical force as the text of the international treaty itself. Bilateral international treaties are usually drawn up in the languages of the principal contracting parties; multilateral in one, two, or more languages. The USSR strictly observes the principle of linguistic equality of contracting parties: all international treaties concluded by the USSR are drawn up in Russian and in the language of the other contracting party.

An international treaty concluded by contracting states is as a rule subject to ratification or confirmation. Usually the head of state confirms an international treaty after it has been officially signed. The signing of a treaty is sometimes preceded by what is called initialing: the plenipotentiaries affix their signature to every page of the treaty to confirm that the present version is the agreed-upon text.

An international treaty enters into force after it has been signed if it is so directly stated in the treaty, or after an exchange of ratification, or after the ratifications are deposited with some other state, called the depository, or with the UN. A treaty may stipulate the exact date when it becomes effective; the contracting parties have the right to select any time for the international treaty to become effective. According to the Constitution of the USSR of 1936 the ratification of international treaties is the prerogative of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. Treaties subject to ratification are discussed and confirmed by the government before they are ratified; in some cases they are submitted for approval, prior to such discussion and confirmation, to the foreign affairs commissions of the Council of the Union and the Council of Nationalities of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.

International treaties are as a rule published by the parties that have concluded them in official government publications, in the periodical press, in collections, or in other types of publications. According to the legislation of several countries, published (promulgated) international treaties have the force of law. In the USSR ratified treaties are published in Vedomosti Verkhovnogo Soveta Soiuza Sovetskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik (Bulletin of the Supreme Soviet of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). Members of the UN register the treaties they have concluded with the UN Secretariat and the registered international treaties are published in UN collections.

Depending on the agreement of the parties to the treaty, international treaties may either be interpreted by the parties themselves or disputes of interpretation may be submitted to an arbitration commission or to the International Court of Justice of the UN.

An international treaty may terminate upon the expiration of its terms, or because the obligations stipulated in it have been fulfilled, or by mutual consent of the parties to terminate the treaty ahead of time. A treaty may also be terminated through denunciation. In that case one state informs the other state or the depository, under conditions agreed upon by the parties in advance, that the treaty between them has been voided. Other ways of terminating an international treaty are revision of the treaty with the consent of the parties to the treaty and annulment, meaning the unilateral declaration of one state that it renounces the treaty.

A variety of designations are applied to international treaties, such as treaty, agreement, pact, accord, convention, declaration, communique, protocol, and act. While the contracting parties have the right to choose any designation for a treaty they conclude, in practice the name of the treaty depends on its content. For instance, a communique usually provides information on the general principles of the government’s policies and views on a particular specific issue, and a protocol deals with the settlement of a minor issue within the framework of cooperation of the states concerned.


Kurs mezhdunarodnogo prava, vol. 4. Moscow, 1968. Pages 130-224.


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