The Oxford Guide to Treaties. Edited by Duncan B. Hollis. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. Pp. lxviii, 804. Index. $230, cloth; $69.95, paper.
"The treaty ... serves as a sort of Swiss army knife for international law" (p. 36). This analogy by Duncan Hollis, a professor of law at Temple University, comes to mind again and again in reading The Oxford Guide to Treaties for which he was the editor. The Guide, which received the American Society of International Law's 2013 Certificate of Merit for high technical craftsmanship and utility to practicing lawyers and scholars, itself reads like an elaborate owner's manual--expertly, lovingly, and painstakingly written. It comprehensively covers the law of treaties and provides considerable insight into treaty practice. Scholars and practitioners alike will find it tremendously useful.
The Guide contains six sections. The first five sections have chapters authored or coauthored by twenty-eight contributors on particular issues within treaty law or practice. The first section covers foundational questions of what a treaty is and who can make one; the next three sections deal with the formation, application, and interpretation of treaties; and the fifth section covers breach, other avoidance of treaty commitments, and exit from treaties. The last section of the book contains sample clauses that relate to the law of treaties or constitute departures from its defaults.
This is a book packed with expertise. The contributors are a mix of academics and practitioners mainly from North America, Europe, and international organizations, and collectively they log centuries of experience with treaties. They frequently have prior publications in the specific areas covered by their chapters, such as Marise Cremona on the European Union as a treaty maker, Geir Ulfstein on treaty bodies, and Richard Gardiner on the rules of treaty interpretation in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT).
Certain features are consistent across all the chapters. Structurally, each chapter has clear introductory and conclusory remarks, as well as a list of recommended reading at the end. Substantively, the chapters are not only rich in doctrinal detail but also packed with descriptions of and examples from practice. Thus, Olufemi Elias's chapter on international organizations (IOs) as treaty makers surveys the kinds of treaties that IOs tend to make, and Tom Grant's chapter on treaty makers other than states and IOs proceeds largely by examples ranging from the Swiss cantons to insurgents in El Salvador. Symeon Karagiannis describes an assortment of colonial clauses and federal clauses in his chapter on the territorial application of treaties, and Malgosia Fitzmaurice discusses a handful of important examples in considering the fundamental changes of circumstances that justify suspension or termination of treaty...