National law is the body of laws and regulations passed by a country or state that governs the activities of its citizens and subjects. These laws may differ from international law as they are based on the specific needs of an individual country. Understanding the difference between national and international law can help students who are considering a career in the legal industry choose their area of focus.
A nation’s national law is the foundation of its international relations and foreign policy. It may consist of statutes, treaties, executive orders, and other governing instruments. National laws are often enacted by legislative bodies and administered through agencies. They may also be based on common law and customary international law.
International law is a broad term that encompasses a wide range of topics and is not confined to the laws of one country. Nations may regulate their own citizens and businesses within their borders or they can impose their laws on other nations that have entered into treaties with them. International law also includes the law of the sea, treaties, and customary international law.
The Supreme Court case Filartiga v Pena Irala marked a new trend towards domestic incorporation of customary international law. In this case the court held that a law enacted by Congress, the Alien Tort Statute, directly incorporated the rules of customary international law against torture.
Research federal laws and the lawmaking process by examining congressional files, finding legislation, learning about impeachment, and discovering copyrighted government creative works. Learn more about federal laws and regulations pertaining to business, consumer protection, insurance, taxation, intellectual property, and family law.