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International Law

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International Law

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International Law

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International law refers to the set of rules and standards that are generally accepted in relations between nations. International lawyers generally focus on international disputes such as issues between nations, international businesses, and even criminal issues. This field of law is often referred to as “public international law”, and is different from private international law, which deals with individuals between different nations.

Unlike national laws, international laws are not subject to enforcement by any government or organization. The United Nations may attempt to convince national governments to enforce certain laws, but cannot do so itself. When an issue arises between nations, the first goal is to see if a peaceful settlement can be reached through diplomatic means. If this is not sufficient, the issue may go before an international court, with the main goal of reaching a mutually acceptable compromise that could prevent any bloodshed or further bloodshed between nations. Some examples of international law in tangible form include treaties, covenants, and protocols.

Areas of International Law

International law covers a wide range of areas. When one nation is thought to have violated an international law, it might be necessary for other nations to take action or attempt to engage that nation in arbitration in order to come to a settlement.

Let’s go over some important areas of international law:

  • International trade
  • The creation and dissolution of states
  • When a nation may use force against another nation
  • How a state conducts armed conflicts
  • Human rights
  • International crime
  • International refugees
  • Environment
  • Air space
  • Postal services

Types of International Law

Since there is no international government in place to create and enforce laws, international laws come about through a variety of different sources. As mentioned above, treaties, covenants, and protocols have historically been considered prime examples of international law, though modern times have added new regulations in different forms that most nations agree to adhere to. Failure to adhere to one or more of these international laws, spoken or unspoken, could result in action being taken against the nation responsible if a correction or compromise cannot be struck. Some ways that international laws originate include:

  • International agreements and reservations, declarations, and derogations. Treaties, conventions, covenants, and protocols are some of the original international agreements that continue to act as law to this day. However, it should be noted that nations are allowed to include reservations when signing a treaty, which may include a disclaimer that they do not intend to abide by a certain part of the treaty. A declaration is generally an expression of one nation’s intention to abide by an international agreement. A derogation, however, may act as another sort of disclaimer, presenting a nation’s intention to abide by an international law except under specific circumstances such as armed conflict.
  • Customary law. This develops out of the custom one or more nations have of habitually behaving in a certain way or adhering to certain guidelines.
  • Compelling law. Also referred to as “strong law” or jus cogens, this refers to the norms of international law that have been accepted by the international community as a whole and from which no nation is allowed to stray.
  • Resolutions by international organizations. If a nation is part of an international organization, such as the United Nation, and the organization makes a binding law, none of the member nations will be permitted to break that law.
  • Decisions of international courts. The decisions reached in an international court only apply to the parties that agreed to be involved. However, the decisions reached in these courts may serve to set up a precedent for another type of international law.
  • Generally held principles of law. The United Nations’ main judicial body, the International Court of Justice, abides by generally relied upon principles of law that most “civilized nations” have agreed are correct.

To learn more about international laws and their origin, contact a legal expert.

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