Sunday, September 25

What is International Law?

What is international law? It’s a set of rules and standards recognized by nations as being binding on them. The term international law is used to describe a broad range of topics, including public international law, the law of nations, and even international ethics. In this article, we’ll discuss the principles and scope of international law and its origins and sources. If you want to learn more, keep reading. You’ll be glad you did.

Principles of international law

The main distinction between general principles and particular principles in international law is their source. The former embody a consensus at a general level, while the latter offer more specific instructions. Moreover, general principles are more complex and nuanced than specific rules, because they are the result of a nexus of national and international legal systems. Despite these similarities, the character of specific principles and general principles is far less clear.

In contrast to the other two sources, general principles of law are the source of law and are driven by the need for a coherent international system. They address issues that domestic legal systems cannot address. Because international law lacks a centralized judiciary or legislative body, identification of general principles of law is done on a case-by-case basis, guided by the needs of the international legal system. They include rules and principles related to international peace, justice, and security.

This module provides an overview of fundamental principles in international law and explores them in a historical and modern context. While it assumes no prior knowledge of international law, it looks at the material in a much deeper way than undergraduate courses. The module focuses on key contemporary problems and shifts in international law over the last 100 years. And it provides a good introduction to the field. So, you’ll have a solid foundation for future study of public international law.

The development of international law has its roots in the fifteenth century. Greek scholars from the Byzantine Empire contributed to this field. The advent of the printing press encouraged further development of science and humanism. Increased European exploration challenged scholars to develop conceptual frameworks to deal with new challenges. Moreover, centralized states such as France and Spain brought more wealth and ambition, and required more sophisticated rules. Hugo Grotius’ De jure Belli ac pacis was considered a foundational text of international law.


In the 15th century, several key events influenced the development of international law. Greek scholars from the Byzantine Empire, the printing press, and humanism all spurred the development of international norms. Increased European exploration required scholars to develop conceptual frameworks that could account for the rights of individual citizens. Furthermore, the emergence of centralized states like Spain and France led to more ambition and wealth. These factors called for the development of more sophisticated rules to govern these new states. A key text that shaped international law was Hugo Grotius’ De jure belli ac pacis.

Although the origins of this system are disputed, the conventional wisdom is that it originated in homegrown general systems of law. This is reflected in the fact that broad instruments, such as the rule of law, have rational derivations within any group of laws. Some examples of universal standards of law are: rules of restitution for harm, rules of understanding, and so forth. These principles have also been referenced in Latin adages.

The origins of international law date to preliterate times. The Mesopotamian city-states of Lagash and Umma negotiated peace treaties in 2100 BCE, while Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II and Hattusilis III signed pacts in 1258 BCE. Over the centuries, polities from all over the world negotiated various international agreements. But it is only in the twentieth century that international law has become truly international.

The practice of international organizations may also be considered an additional source of international law. In some cases, national laws are held inapplicable due to conflicts with a supranational legal system. In these cases, nations cede judicial power to a common tribunal. The decisions of this tribunal have direct effect in all the party nations and have priority over national court decisions. One prominent example of a supranational legal framework is the European Union. In EU law, the European Court of Justice has supremacy over the national courts in each member nation.


The definition of international law may be either a set of general principles or a set of specific rules. The latter definition takes into account changes after the Second World War. The term “international community” means members of the international system, such as States, international organizations, individuals, and non-State entities. Other definitions include “general principles” and “unilateral obligations.”

The scope of international law is extremely broad, covering topics like war, recognition of governments, air and space law, human rights, and dispute resolution. More recently, economic justice has started to play a prominent role in the field. While international law is most commonly associated with the United Nations, it can apply to non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), businesses, and even individuals. This is reflected in international human rights law and international criminal law.

Most legal systems recognize general principles that apply to international situations. These principles include the binding nature of agreements, protection of acquired rights, prohibition of unjust enrichment, and procedural fairness in court. Further, international law is concerned with how states behave with each other. It’s also important to remember that international law has different definitions. However, the basic principles of international law can help define what it is, and which countries will fall under them.

According to Wikipedia, international law refers to the rules and principles that govern the relations between states. These rules and principles apply to individuals, governments, and other non-State entities. International law is constantly changing and developing, as Whiteman points out. The scope of international law varies from country to country and is broad, which makes it important to educate yourself about the subject. This means that certain rules of law will apply to individuals, non-State entities, and international organizations, whereas other rules of international law apply to nations and non-State entities.


ICJ Statute Article 38 enumerates the sources of international law. These are international custom, international conventions, and general principles of law. In order for a rule to be recognized as international law, it must be derived from one of these sources. In practice, these sources tend to interact. While some sources of international law have an important influence on others, most rules derive from all three sources. In this article, I will examine some of these sources and how they are related.

Despite the importance of sources in international law, the distinction between material and formal sources of law is often difficult to maintain. Formal sources are based on quasi-constitutional principles such as inevitable generality, and material sources are evidence of normative consensus among relevant actors. For example, decisions by the International Court and resolutions of the General Assembly demonstrate the presence or absence of normative consensus among relevant actors. Moreover, ‘law-making’ multilateral treaties are a form of formal source of international law, and have a greater status than’material’ sources.

In addition to general principles, international law also derives from the practice of international organizations. For example, the principles contained in the Island of Palmas case are considered international law. Other sources of international law include the websites of intergovernmental organizations, electronic databases like HeinOnline, and print publications like ICJ decisions. The principles of good faith and equitable treatment are two of the main elements of international law. For example, the principle of good faith is one of the basic principles of international law, which has been repeatedly referenced by the ICJ in cases.

Ancient traditions can be considered important sources of international law. Ancient Israel, the Indian subcontinent, and China all possessed significant cultural traditions. The ancient Greeks were also important sources of international law. Their political philosophy helped define the rights and obligations of independent units, and their city-states also shaped the evolution of international law. The ancient Greeks, on the other hand, conceived of international law as universal. And they developed the first treaties in the history of international law.


The application of international law is the process of interpreting and implementing the relevant principles and conventions of an international legal system. There are many principles of international law, and some have more significance than others. Some of the most prominent are described below. The ICJ also relies heavily on general principles of law, which are a core part of international law. However, many of these principles have lost their significance over time due to the intense international relations of today.

General principles of international law are complementary to custom and treaty law. In addition to their complementary nature, sources of recenter origin are often considered more authoritative than older sources. Specific rules of international law, such as jus cogens, have a higher status than general rules of international law, and can only be amended by subsequent norms of the same status. Examples of such general rules are the prohibition of genocide, slavery, piracy, and aggression.

Cyberspace is an emerging area of global interest. While international law has traditionally focused on states and their creations, it no longer has a monopoly on cyberspace regulation. Other regulatory regimes have stepped up to fill this gap. The multistakeholder governance of the internet architecture is a leading example of this. In addition to states, other nonstate actors have expressed an interest in applying international law to cyberspace. However, while the role of international law in cyberspace is growing, it must be acknowledged that its limitations remain.

While international law should be given primary applicability, national law should not be completely ignored. In some cases, international law may also have a role where national law fails to play one. The Court of Justice of the European Union’s modified rules of reliance and application, for example, seeks to avoid an ambiguous interpretation of EU norms and to protect EU norms against international law. If this is the case, the Court of Justice must consider the role of national law in the application of international law.