Article 53

Treaties conflicting with a peremptory norm of general international law (“jus cogens”)
  • Kirsten Schmalenbach


By adopting Art 53 VCLT, State Parties seized the widely academic notion of ius cogens in international law, imparted legal essence to legal theory and introduced the outcome into positive international law for the first time. Since then, the ius cogens concept constitutes one of the few largely unmutable mainstays of the international legal order, designed to protect overriding interests and values of the international community of States from selective alteration and corrosion. Indeed, the very idea of ius cogens is to delimit the destructive effects of relativism and consensualism on the international community’s essential normative commitments. Today, the ius cogens concept reflected in Art 53 is generally accepted—albeit seldom invoked in State practice—and a rule of customary international law. With a view to the overall agreement on the existence of ius cogens expressed at the UN conference, it is safe to say that Art 53 reflects a customary rule that has gradually developed long before the Convention entered into force (non-retroactivity of the Convention).


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Kirsten Schmalenbach
    • 1
  1. 1.Law FacultyParis Lodron University of SalzburgSalzburgAustria

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