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international law

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International law is the body of legal rules that apply between sovereign

states and such other entities as have been granted international

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personality (status acknowledged by the international community). The

rules of international law are of a normative character, that is, they

prescribe towards conduct, and are potentially designed for authoritative

interpretation by an international judicial authority and by being capable

of enforcement by the application of external sanctions. The International

Court of Justice is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations,

which succeeded the Permanent Court of International Justice after World

War II.

Article 92 of the charter of the United Nations states:

The International Court of justice shall be the principal judicial organ

of the United nations. It shall function in accordance with the annexed

Statute, which is based upon the Statute of the Permanent court of

International Justice and forms an integral part of the present Charter.

The commands of international law must be those that the states impose

upon themselves, as states must give consent to the commands that they

will follow.

It is a direct expression of raison d’etat, the “interests of

the state”, and aims to serve the state, as well as protect the state by

giving its rights and duties. This is done through treaties and other

consensual engagements which are legally binding.

The case-law of the ICJ is an important aspect of the UN’s contribution to

the development of international law. It’s judgements and advisory

opinions permeates into the international legal community not only through

its decisions as such but through the wider implications of its

The successful resolution of the border dispute between Burkina Faso and

Mali in the 1986 Frontier Dispute case illustrates the utility of judicial

decision as a means of settlement in territorial disputes. The case was

submitted to a Chamber of the ICJ pursuant to a special agreement

concluded by the parties in 1983. In December 1985, while written

submissions were being prepared, hostilities broke out in the disputed

area. A cease-fire was agreed, and the Chamber directed the continued

observance of the cease-fire, the withdrawal of troops within twenty days,

and the avoidance of actions tending to aggravate the dispute or prejudice

its eventual resolution. Both Presidents publicly welcomed the judgement

and indicated their intention to comply with it. In the Fisheries

Jurisdiction case (United Kingdom v. Iceland , 1974) the ICJ contributed

to the firm establishment in law of the idea that mankind needs to

conserve the living resources of the sea and must respect these resources.

It is one of the advances in maritime international law, resulting from

the intensification of fishing, that the former laissez-faire treatment

ofthe living resources of the sea in the high seas has been replaced by a

recognition of a duty to have due regard of the rights of other States and

the needs of conservation for the benefit of all. Consequently, both

parties have the obligation to keep inder review the fishery resources in

the disputed waters and to examine together, in the light of scientific

and other available information, the measures required for the

conservation and development, and equitable exploitation, of these

resources, taking into account any international agreement in force

between them, such as the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Convention of 24

January 1959, as well as such other agreements as may be reached in the

matter in the course of further negotiation. The Court also held that the

concept of preferential rights in fisheries is not static.

This is not to say that the preferential rights of a coastal State in a

special situation are a static concept, in the sense that the degree of

the coastal State’s preference is to be considered as for ever at some

given moment. On the contrary, the preferential rights are a function of

the exceptional dependence of such a coastal State on the fisheries in

adjacent waters and may, therefore, vary as the extent of that dependence

The Court’s judgement on this case contributes to the development of the

law of the sea by recognizing the concept of the preferential rights of a

coastal state in the fisheries of the adjacent waters, particularly if

that state is in a special situation with its population dependent on

those fisheries. Moreover, the Court proceeds further to recognise that

the law pertaining to fisheries must accept the primacy of the requirement

of conservation based on scientific data. The exercise of preferential

rights of the coastal state, as well as the hisoric rights of other states

dependent on the same fishing grounds, have to be subject to the

overriding consideration of proper conservation of the fishery resources

for the benefit of all concerned.

Some cases in which sanctions are threatened, however, see no actual

implementation. The United States, for example, did not impose measures on

those Latin American states that nationalized privately owned American

property, despite legislation that authorizes the President to discontinue

aid in the absence of adequate compensation.

Enforcement measures are not the sole means of UN sanction. Skeptics of

the coercive theory of international law note that forceful sanctions

through the United Nations are limited to situations involving threats to

the peace, breaches of peace, and acts of aggressiion. In all other

instances of noncompliance of international law, the charter’s own general

provisions outlawing the threat or use of force actually prevent forceful

sanction. Those same skeptics regard this as an appropriate paradox in a

decentralized state system of international politics. Nonetheless, other

means of collective sanction through the UN involve diplomatic

intervention and economic sanctions.

In 1967 the Security Council decided to isolate Southern Rhodesia (now

Zimbabwe) for its policy of racial separation following its unilateral

declaration of independence from Britain. As in other cases of economic

sanctions, effectiveness in the Rhodesian situation was limited by the

problems of achieving universal participation, and the resistance of

national elites to external coercion. With respect to universal

participation, even states usually sympathetic to Britain’s policy

The decentralization of sanctions remains one of the major weaknesses of

international law. Although international bodies sometimes make decisions

in the implementation of sanctions, member states must implement them. The

states are the importers and exporters in the international system. They

command industrial economies and the passage of goods across national

Furthermore, the UN is wholly dependent on its members on operating funds,

so no matter what decisional authority its members give it, its ability to

take action not only depends on its decision but also on means. Without

the support, the wealth and the material assistance of national

governments, the UN is incapable of effective sanctions. The resistance of

governments to a financially independent UN arises principally on their

insistence on maintaining control over sanctioning processes in

Despite sweeping language regarding “threats to peace, breaches of the

peace, and acts of aggression”, the role of the United Nationsin the

enforcement of international law is quite limited. Indeed the purpose of

the UN is not to enforce international law, but to preserve, restore and

ensure political peace and security. The role of the Security Council is

to enforce that part of international law that is either created or

encompassed by the Charter of the United Nations. When aggression occurs,

the members of the Council may decide politically – but are not obliged

legally – to undertake collective action that will have sanctioning

result. In instances of threats to or breaches of the peace short of war,

they may decide politically to take anticipatory action short of force.

Moreover, it is for the members of the Security Council to determine when

a threat to peace, a breach of peace, or an act of aggression has occured.

Even thi determination is made on political rather than legal criteria.

The Security Council may have a legal basis for acting, but self-interst

determines how each of it members votes, irrespective of how close to

aggression the incident at issue may be. Hence by virtue of both its

constitutional limitations and the exercise of sovereign prerogatives by

its members, the security council’s role as a sanctioning device in

international law is sharply restricted.

As the subject matter of the law becomes more politicized, states are less

willing to enter into formal regulation, or do so only with loopholes for

escape from apparent constraints. In this area, called the law of

community, governments are generally less willing to sacrifice their

soverein liberties. In a revolutionary international system where change

is rapid and direction unclear, the integrity of the law of community is

weak, and compliance of its often flaccid norms is correspondingly

The law of the political framework resides above these other two levels

and consists of the legal norms governing the ultimate power relations of

states. This is the most politicized level of international relations;

hence pertinent law is extremely primitive. Those legal norms that do

exist suffer from all the political machinations of the states who made

them. States have taken care to see that their behaviour is only minimally

constrained; the few legal norms they have created always provide avenues

of escape such as the big-power veto in the UN Security Council.

Despite the many failures and restrictions of international law, material

interdpendence, especially among the states of equivalent power, may

foster the growth of positive legal principles. In addition, as

friendships and emnities change,, some bilateral law may cease to be

observed among new emnities, but new law may arise among new friends who

have newfound mutual interests. In the meantime, some multicultural law

may have been developed. Finally, research suggests that the social

effects of industrialization are universal and that they result in

intersocial tolerances that did not exist during periods of disparate

economic capability. On social, political, ane economic grounds,

therefore, international law is intrinsic to the transformation and

modernization of the international system, even though the “law of the

political context” has remained so far.

Cite this international law

international law. (2018, Aug 12). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/international-law-essay/

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