Reservations to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
Overview of the case
In November 1950, the General Assembly asked the Court a series of questions as to the position of a State which attached reservations to its signature of the multilateral Convention on Genocide if other States, signatories of the same Convention, objected to these reservations. The Court considered, in its Advisory Opinion of 28 May 1951, that, even if a convention contained no article on the subject of reservations, it did not follow that they were prohibited. The character of the convention, its purposes and its provisions must be taken into account. It was the compatibility of the reservation with the purpose of the convention which must furnish the criterion of the attitude of the State making the reservation, and of the State which objected thereto. The Court did not consider that it was possible to give an absolute answer to the abstract question put to it. As regards the effects of the reservation in relations between States, the Court considered that a State could not be bound by a reservation to which it had not consented. Every State was therefore free to decide for itself whether the State which formulated the reservation was or was not a party to the convention. The situation presented real disadvantages, but they could only be remedied by the insertion in the convention of an article on the use of reservations. A third question referred to the effects of an objection by a State which was not yet a party to the convention, either because it had not signed it or because it had signed but not ratified it. The Court was of the opinion that, as regards the first case, it would be inconceivable that a State which had not signed the convention should be able to exclude another State from it. In the second case, the situation was different : the objection was valid, but it would not produce an immediate legal effect ; it would merely express and proclaim the attitude which a signatory State would assume when it had become a party to the convention. In all the foregoing, the Court adjudicated only on the specific case referred to it, namely, the Genocide Convention.
This overview is provided for information only and in no way involves the responsibility of the Court.