International Law

international law

International law is a body of rules and regulations that governs relations among countries. It covers topics as diverse as the treatment of diplomats, war crime trials, environmental issues and global trade. Many international law disputes and allegations of breaches of international law go unresolved or are not formally adjudicated and decided upon by an independent court, although the United Nations and its specialized agencies often develop treaties and other legal instruments to regulate specific aspects of international affairs.

Unlike national or domestic law, which is set down in legislation approved by a parliament, international law exists in a variety of forms and is based on the consent of the states that agree to be bound by it. The main sources of international law are treaties, customary international law and agreed-upon general principles of law. Treaties bind only those states that ratify them, while customary international law arises from the consistent practice of states of adhering to certain rules out of a sense of obligation. General principles of international law include the right to peaceful coexistence and the principle of the non-use or threat of use of force in settling international disputes.

The primary enforcer of international law is the International Court of Justice, but a variety of other international courts and tribunals exist on a permanent or ad hoc basis, with varying degrees of relation to the United Nations (including the tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon). Other sources of evidence are the judgments and opinions of international and national (domestic) tribunals, which are given considerable weight by international tribunals but are not binding upon them, while judgments from domestic tribunals are generally considered persuasive authorities.

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