Home »

The Consensus Method of Interpretation by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Lucas Lixinski

Full Text

Download article here whatisthis


This article examines treaty interpretation based on consensus, or the idea that legal or political practice that is not directly related to a treaty can be used in interpreting it, or at least in granting more discretion to States Parties. The practice of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, contrasted with the well-settled practice of the European Court of Human Rights, reveals that consensus interpretation plays an important role in entrenching the legitimacy of international human rights courts. The Inter-American Court’s practice seems to rely on consensus when it supports a progressive, teleological interpretation of human rights. The article argues that this selective engagement eliminates the legitimacy-building possibilities of the consensus method of interpretation, but that the Inter-American Court, in seeking legitimacy not from States Parties, but other stakeholders, does not seem particularly concerned with legitimacy costs (even if it probably should).