The Nature of International Law

international law

International law consists of the legal responsibilities of States in their conduct with each other and in their treatment of individuals within State boundaries. It covers such issues as human rights, disarmament, international crime, refugees, migration, problems of nationality and the use of force. It also regulates the global commons such as world trade, outer space and international waters.

There are different views as to the nature of international law. Some critics argue that it lacks a centralized system of enforcement and that it depends on the consent of States to form its rules. However, there is an increasing body of international courts and tribunals with jurisdiction over such issues as international crimes and human rights.

Moreover, there is agreement that the subjects of international law are not only Nations but also individuals and even international organizations. For example, the International Court of Justice considers that the United Nations is an international person and is entitled to certain rights and duties.

Some supporters of international law suggest that the main function of it is to prevent international disputes from arising and settle them peacefully. Others point to the protection of individual rights as one of its key functions. Yet, it is also believed that the emergence of authoritarian powers on the one hand and populist forces in the Western world on the other are threats to the international rule-based order. They are perceived as hostile to particular aspects of it such as the international covenant on human rights.

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