Ruwantissa Abeyratne, Treaty interpretation of the Chicago Convention


Treaty interpretation of the Chicago Convention.  

In many ways the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention) defies precise treaty interpretation if the ordinary meaning of certain provisions therein is applied by Contracting States in their conduct, as required by the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. In this context the Chicago Convention is a unique treaty that must be discussed with a view to arriving at an originalist’s perspective. Just as an example, the Chicago Convention has 19 Annexes to the Convention, which, as the Convention identifies, are so named “for convenience”. This ambivalent phrase leaves the reader confused and befuddled as to whether the Annexes are an integral part of the Convention, where one can ascribe the same legal credibility and legitimacy that the provisions of the Convention demand. The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties prescribes that an Annex to an international treaty has ipso facto and per force the same legal effect of compulsive adherence that a provision of that treaty has, unless specifically mentioned to the contrary in that treaty. However, the Chicago Convention effectively precludes this recognition as articulated in the Vienna Convention by providing elsewhere in the former that Contracting States need not adhere to the Standards and Recommended Practices if States find it impossible or impracticable to implement them. Another instance is where the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties requires Contracting States to perform requirements of treaty provisions “in good faith”. States have not been clear in their acceptance of this requirement in the application of the Chicago Convention, as reflected in their conduct in certain instances, which leads to an obfuscation of the principles of the Chicago Convention. This article extrapolates classical theory and applicable treaty law and practice against such ambivalence and seeks to interpret the meaning and purpose of the Chicago Convention in light of modern aviation practice.