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International Law

A guide to help law students with research for International law

International Law

What is International Law?

According to the United Nations:

International law defines the legal responsibilities of States in their conduct with each other, and their treatment of individuals within State boundaries. Its domain encompasses a wide range of issues of international concern, such as human rights, disarmament, international crime, refugees, migration, problems of nationality, the treatment of prisoners, the use of force, and the conduct of war, among others. It also regulates the global commons, such as the environment and sustainable development, international waters, outer space, global communications and world trade.

The Statute of the International Court of Justice Art. 38 identifies the basic sources of International Law:

"a. Treaties between States

b. Customary international law derived from the practice of States;

c. General principles of law recognized by civilised nations; and, as subsidiary means for the determination of rules of international law:

d. Judicial decisions and the writings of “the most highly qualified publicists”."

(from Sources of International Law by Professor Christopher Greenwood.)

Treaties form the basis of much international law.  International courts may be formed under a treaty or per the authority of an international organization, such as the United Nations.  This guide will assist researchers in finding treaties, international court decisions and other sources of international law.  The guide will also link to sources for paper topic ideas (current awareness sources) , as well as useful websites, books and databases. 

International Law is different from the law of other countries, which is called Foreign Law.  If you need help finding the laws of other countries, see Foreign Law.

If you are interested in Human Rights in particular, various pages in this guide have links specific to human rights.

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