Friday, March 20, 2009

Travaux Préparatoires

Last week the impressive two volume set "The Genocide Convention : The Travaux Préparatoires", by Hirad Abtahi and Philippa Webb was launched in the Hague.

The 2217 pages of this vol. 2 of a new series "The Travaux Préparatoires of Multilateral Treaties", published by Brill/Nijhoff, offer the reader, students of international criminal law, lawyers, judges, historians etc. a careful collected body of 337 UN documents dating from 1946 to 1948. The original documents, hard to find and fragile, are re-keyed and presented in a chronological order. The 86 page splendid General Index with analytical catagories of keywords functions like a research guide. You can follow the contributions of the representatives of the different countries on certain topics. A Complete List of Documents and an Index of names are also added. You can find a practical explanation of the UN symbols in the Reader's Guide.

Going through it you can trace according to the spoken words of Dame Rosalyn Higgins, the former president of the International Court of Justice, the historical context, the persons who played an important role, the issues at stake and an understanding of the way in which multilateral treaties are made in the UN.

Judge Philippe Kirsch, president of the International Criminal Court, added some words about the practical use of this work with the regrettable growing number of cases dealing with this "odious scourge" before the ICJ, ICC, and other national and international courts and tribunals.

The travaux will play a valuable role as a supplementary means of interpretation, mentioned in art. 32 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.


The work of Abtahi and Webb will surely help readers to define the contours of this complex crime.


A natural complement would be the new edition of William A. Schabas book entitled Genocide in International Law (Cambridge, 2009), in which you find a history and commentary of the Convention with the analysis of the growing body of case law on genocide.

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