What Is International Law?

international law

International law is the body of rules, norms, standards, and regulations generally recognized as binding between states. It provides a common conceptual framework for states in a wide range of domains, such as war, diplomacy, trade, international organizations and human rights.

State sovereignty, the principle that states are supreme in their own affairs, is a core concept of international law. While some nations believe this means that they can do whatever they want, others believe it makes nations vulnerable to foreign intervention and international coercion.

The underlying principles of international law are established by treaties, conventions, declarations, agreements, customs and other sources. The resulting rules, known as general principles of law, form the basis for judicial decisions and scholarly writings.

Individual responsibility, the idea that individuals have a right to a life free from violence and persecution, is another important element of international law. This is a trend that began with the Nuremberg Trials in the post World War II period, and has been reinforced by numerous international covenants and agreements that have specified additional rights for individuals.

International law also provides a common legal framework for nations to settle disputes peacefully, by negotiation and mediation, and through arbitration or adjudication. It also helps protect people, places and resources, such as the environment, the oceans, outer space and global communications.

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