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Interpretation of International Law by National Judges: Opportunities and Challenges. The Case of International Investment Law in Latin America

  • Marcelo Lozada Gómez
  • Paola Acosta Alvarado


The role of national judges in international law is still an undecided subject matter. Most scholars consider the decisions from national judges merely as acts of States, denying the possibility that those judgments constitute an autonomous source of international law. This position is grounded in the idea that national judges do not regularly employ sources of international law, and therefore, their opinion about them is not quite important. Nevertheless, recent phenomena have highlighted and triggered the intervention of national judges regarding the interpretation and enforcement of international law. The growing scope of international rules, which now regulate intra-states issues, as well as the fragmentation of international law, and the internationalisation of national orders, inter alia, have demanded domestic courts’ intervention in order to face these changes and avoid undesirable consequences. In this context, this article aims to: 1. bring an outlook on the evolution of the role assigned to national judges; 2. explore the phenomena that triggered their intervention; 3. analyse the outcomes of this increasing participation, namely how national judges change the usual dynamics of interpretation and evolution of international law; 4. apply these ideas to explain the intervention of national judges in Latin America regarding the enforcement of foreign investment law; and 5. conclude with some remarks about the future of this relationship between national and international law as well as the importance of a better understanding of the role of national judges.