What Is International Law?

international law

International law is the set of rules, norms and standards generally recognized as binding between states. It establishes normative guidelines and a common conceptual framework for states across a broad range of domains, including war, diplomacy, economic relations and human rights.

There are several sources of international law, which include customary law, treaties and general principles recognised in most national legal systems. These are considered to have equal authority as international law in most cases, although private or public parties may assign higher priority to one source by agreement.

Interpretation of international law is primarily the responsibility of states. However, judicial bodies such as the International Court of Justice can play an important role in providing assistance to states on this matter.

Most disputes between states are resolved peacefully through diplomatic means, with the disputing states agreeing to comply with international law or submitting the dispute to an international tribunal, court or arbitration. Disputes that cannot be settled in this manner often result in armed conflict between the disputing states, or may be left unresolved by the disputing states themselves.

There are also many international organizations that can create their own laws and resolutions which are binding on member states, in particular those of the United Nations. For example, the United Nations Security Council can make resolutions that compel states to comply with international law, or it can order sanctions on countries in response to a breach of international law which threatens peace and stability.

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