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International Treaties and Brazil

An international treaty is essentially a contract between two countries. Treaties can be created and signed for a myriad of reasons, and the treaty must state the underlying cause for the agreement. There are many famous treaties that have been signed throughout history. One of the most famous is the Treaty of Versailles, which was the peace treaty that officially ended World War I. It was an agreement between Germany and the allied powers.

Each country has its way of dealing with international treaties. Some have more strict restrictions on entering treaties, while others only require minimal approval. In Brazil, the Brazilian federal constitution sets these regulations. It states that the power to enter into an international treaty is vested mainly in the president but that Congress must also approve the treaty. Once the treaty has been entered into and ratified, the Federal Supreme Court has ruled that the policies stated therein must be further incorporated into Brazilian law. The president is entitled to incorporate the new rules by a decree published in the federal register.

Constitutional Review of Brazilian Treaties

Further, the Federal Supreme Court states that treaties should be regarded in the same way as any other ordinary legislation and are subject to constitutional review. Since Brazil is a country that operates on civil law, constitutional review is an important part of any established decree. However, treaties that contain issues concerning human rights should be regarded as slightly more important than any other treaty, and are hierarchically above ordinary legislation. In fact, treaties that concern human rights are actually carried out by a special procedure, and they are regarded as highly as Brazilian constitutional amendments.

Unlike the United States, the Brazilian constitution does not contain a supremacy clause. In the United States, the supremacy clause states that treaties are one of the highest forms of law in the country and should be considered the “law of the land”. Brazil’s constitution does not contain such a clause, likely because Brazil follows civil law. In the United States, court rulings are made on a case-by-case basis, and a new ruling could be made for the same case years later. In Brazil rulings are based mainly on the constitution, so the same case is likely to have the same ruling as long as the constitution remains unchanged.

Types of International Treaties

International treaties in Brazil will either be bilateral of multilateral.

  • Bilateral Treaties – A treaty that represents an agreement between two countries is considered bilateral. In some cases, the agreement might be between more than two countries, but the countries are separated into two groups. For example, although the “allied countries” in the treaty of Versailles consisted of many countries, it was considered a single body in terms of the contractual agreement.
  • Multilateral Treaties – Treaties that are multilateral exist between multiple countries. Three or more countries can sign a single multilateral treaty. This type of treaty is usually regional.

Brazilian law is sometimes similar to that in the United States but often differs slightly. If you’d like to learn more about policies regarding international treaties in Brazil, you should consider speaking with a Brazilian attorney.

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