Short overview of international law:

International law is the set of rules generally regarded and accepted as binding between states and nations. It regulates the relationship of states. This definition of international law has now become obsolete due to recent developments in past four decades. Those developments include formation of various international organizations. Newly formed organizations have their own separate legal identity. New rules and regulations have been created for the punishment of international offenders involved in commission of various international crimes. Crime against peace and humanity are also been included in international crimes. Due to those recent developments in past few decades, definition and scope of international law has widened.

According to some jurists, international law is a form of customary law. In view of Grotius, the father of international law, “International law has been derived from natural law”.

Different scholars have defined the international law in different way. Few of the definitions of international law as defined by some scholarships have mentioned below.

International law in view of Torsten Gilh, “The term international law is the body of rules of law which apply within international community or society of states.

International law in perspective of Gray, “International law or the law of nations is the name of body of rules which according to their usual definitions regulate the conduct of states in their intercourse with each other.

Professor L. Oppenheim has defined the international law as “Law of nations or international law is the name for the body of customary and conventional rules which are considered legally binding by civilized states in their intercourse with each other”.

Sources of international law Sources of international law have been defined in Article 38 of international court of justice. As per Article 38 of international law, sources of international law are classified in primary and secondary sources. Primary sources of international law include:

• Treaties or conventions

• Customary Law

• General principles recognized by civilized nations

Secondary sources of international law include judicial decisions.

Primary sources of international law

Treaties or conventions: Treaties are agreement between two or more countries. If agreement is between two countries, it is known as bilateral treaty and if treaty is between three or more countries, it is known as multilateral treaty. Treaties are also known as conventions. Treaties are ratified by head of states.

Kinds of treaties : 

There are two important kinds of treaties.

• Law making treaties

• Contractual treaties

Law making treaties are statutory in nature. These treaties don’t make the law as name suggest. Law making treaties are universal and considered as direct source of international law whereas on the other hand Contractual treaties are not universal in nature. These are the treaties between the parties and these treaties require ratification unlike law making treaties.

Customary law: Customs are also one of the most important sources of international law.

Customs are certain specific practices of states that have been given status of law. The word custom and usage have often been confused with each other. There is a slight difference between the two terms. Usage are usually conflicting while custom on the other hand is not self-contradictory.

General principles recognized by civilized nations: Article 38 (1)(c) of international court of justice deals with general principles recognized by the civilized nations. It has been added in the international law to fill the gap created by treaties and customs so as to help in better decision making. These general principles are universally applied in all legal systems of the world.

Secondary sources of international law :

Secondary sources of international law include judicial decisions and writings. Judicial decisions and writings come into force when none of the above sources of international law work. According to section 59 of international court of justice, decisions of permanent courts don’t create binding effect, however, these decisions of permanent courts can only be used for guidelines purposes. If judicial decisions are considered as binding then they can help in the formation of international law.

International law versus Domestic law : International law is decentralized and is based on consent, flexibility and reciprocity whereas on the other hand domestic law is centralized and it is imposed by national government. Types of international law Three main types of international law are listed below.

• Public international law

• Private international law

• Supranational law

Public international law: Regulates relationship between the states and international entities. Examples include: International criminal law, international humanitarian law, treaty law.

Private international law: Deals with disputes between individuals belonging to different jurisdictions. It also addresses the question regarding jurisdiction of court which applies to cases. Private international law is also involved in dealing the disputes of corporations.

Supranational law: Deals with agreements where laws of nations fails when conflicting with supranational legal system when that nation has obligation of treaty to that supranational collective.

International disputes

International disputes defined as disputes between the states. International law tries to settle international disputes in rightful and fair manner. Normally, there are two ways of settling the international disputes.

• Settling the international disputes by the consent of parties and in peaceful manner.

• Settling the international disputes by the use of force.

Peaceful means of settling the international disputes Following are the peaceful means of settling any international dispute

• Arbitration

• Judicial tribunals

• Negotiations

• United Nations

Arbitration: In arbitration matter refers to arbitrator for dispute resolution. Arbitrator after hearing the both parties make decision or award.

Judicial tribunals: International disputes are also resolved by judicial tribunals by applying law. Main elements involved is international court of justice.

Negotiations: International disputes are solved through dialogues between the parties. Negotiations tries to minimize tensions between the states and tries to resolve disputes through dialogues.

United Nations: United nation came into existence after world war 2 to create peace in the world. The goal of United Nations is to create peace in the world. United Nations, therefore, tries to settle international disputes through peaceful means.

Settlement of international disputes through force

Following are the forceful means of settling the international disputes.

• War

• Retorsion

• Reprisal

• Intervention

War: The purpose of war is to show power to the opponent so that opponent may agree on settlement.

Retorsion: Aggrieved party retaliate the unfriendly acts of other party.

Reprisal: In reprisal, the one state secure redress from other state for their illegal act.

Intervention: Disputes are resolved between the parties to the satisfaction of parties.



• Book: Introduction to International law by J.G. Starke

• Bare Act: Statute of International court of justice

• Google