can they even interpret it to effectively negate the rule of not using domestic law as a justification for non fullfilment of obligations by interpreting the treaty in a way that suits them ?

  • State as in member of a federal country or state as in fully sovereign country?
    – Trish
    May 16, 2023 at 22:41
  • 1
    The body text of this question isn't reading clearly.with triple negatives, etc.
    – ohwilleke
    May 16, 2023 at 23:53
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    fully sovereign country @Trish
    – user49663
    May 17, 2023 at 4:04
  • You seem to be wanting to know about a specific case based on your "can they even...": please provide as much detail as possible, rather than leaving us to guess.
    – Stuart F
    May 17, 2023 at 16:08

2 Answers 2


There is a lot behind the word "can" in your question. If you are simply asking whether states have the sovereign power to interpret international law however they want, then sure. But they might be wrong (thereby leaving themselves in violation of the treaty they are failing to implement), and if they are intentionally doing so to avoid fulfilment of international obligations, then this is itself a violation of international law. States must take actions in good faith towards implementing treaties in their domestic law. See Articles 26 and 27 of the Vienna Convention.

See also: What gives rise to binding obligations at international law?


A nation can interpret its treaty obligations however it wants. If it is wrong in its interpretation, the nation might be sued which could end up being somehow penalized for a wrongful action based on an incorrect interpretation. Whether they can get away with it depends on who is going to enforce that law.

  • 1
    "Whether they can get away with it depends on who is going to enforce that law": in much of international law, the answer to that question is "nobody."
    – phoog
    May 16, 2023 at 22:25
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    @phoog actually the answer is "anybody who wants that law." For example, see military and economical support to Ukraine.
    – SJuan76
    May 16, 2023 at 23:52
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    @SJuan76 if I understand your comment correctly it's analogous to claiming that Alice giving Bob a big stick to use in defending himself against Carol's punches somehow constitutes Alice enforcing the law that prohibits assault and battery. It's not the same thing.
    – phoog
    May 17, 2023 at 12:48