National law refers to legal rules that are specific to a nation. National laws are created by the legislative, judicial and executive branches of a country’s government. The laws are usually meant to govern the behavior and conduct of persons within a specific country. They also are intended to punish individuals who violate these rules and norms. National laws differ from international law, which involves the governing systems of nations within an overarching international governmental system.
For example, human rights law has an impact on the national systems of many countries. This is because national courts may look to international and regional human rights law for guidance in interpreting and developing their own laws. In addition, such law can be a basis for a human rights claim against a particular state.
A concept that has emerged in recent years in academic writings and commercial practice is the notion of a third category of law, known as “a-national” or “non-state” law. Proponents of this view argue that there is a growing body of a-national law that has emerged spontaneously through merchant practice, based on unwritten trade usages. They call this new body of law the lex mercatoria. Critics, however, point out that law is a social construct and that detaching it from the state makes no sense.