For example the international conventions on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid both have denunciation clauses that allow state parties to leave the convention at anytime they wish.

Doesn't this largely undermine the effectiveness of the treaties? If a state party can just leave at anytime there isn't any incentive for other state parties to follow their obligations as well.


1 Answer 1


Well, those treaties are not particularly effective in the first place, because they don't include any automatic enforcement mechanisms or penalties for not complying with them.

International conventions like these are really more statements of intent rather than enforceable contracts. Ratifying them basically means saying "We agree that apartheit/genocide is bad, and we pledge to persecute and punish people who do it". But that's really all they are: a pledge. As such, they are as easy to back out of as they are to enter.

Now you might ask "Why not give these conventions some teeth? Can't the UN somehow force the contracting parties to comply?". The answer is no.

  1. The UN is a rather weak institution. It avoids infringing the sovereignty of its members. And when it takes measures to enforce its agenda through sanctions or interventions, then it only has the resources available which member-states are willing to spare. This is by design! Because:
  2. States are generally reluctant to give up sovereignty. Treaties which would impose too many restrictions or demands on states, infringe on their ability to legislate and govern the way they see fit or would be impossible to denounce, would be treaties very few states would be willing to sign. So when you want a treaty to get ratified by the majority of UN member-states, you need to make it weak and vague enough that it is palatable to them.

Which is why "treaties with teeth" are usually bilateral treaties between two states or small groups of states, and not "big-tent" international treaties.

  • have there been any developments in international law that seek to resolve the conflict between soveriegnty and international law ? also are there any organization's working towards strengthening international rule of law Jan 26, 2023 at 3:42
  • 2
    @WhyDoenounce There is no such thing as "international law", to start with. There are at best "international customs".
    – Rekesoft
    Jan 26, 2023 at 8:04

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