INTERNATIONAL LAW


The term ‘International law’ was introduced by Jeremy Bentham in 1789. Before this, International law was called the Law of Nations. International law is a set of rules that regulates the relations between the States. International law not only provides a framework and a set of procedures for international interaction between the States but also a common set of concepts for all the States. International law includes substantive law, procedural law, and remedies to resolve international conflicts.


Oppenheim defined the law of Nations or International law as a body of customary and treaty rules and regulations which the States consider legally binding upon them in their intercourse with each other.

However, this definition was criticized by the critics saying that this definition does not cover international organizations, rules relating to activities of multinational corporations, general principles of law. Further, critics also said that this definition shows international law as static and not dynamic or changing. So, Oppenheim changed his definition of International law and added International organizations and individuals as subjects of International law.

Hall said that International law consists of some rules of conduct regarded by modern civilized States as binding on them in their relations with one another.

Cobbett defined International law as rules accepted by civilized States as determined by their conduct towards each other.


There are some sources of international law. Firstly, treaties are the primary source of international law. Treaties are conventions, charters, pacts, agreements, covenants in which the signing parties agree to bind themselves on some negotiated issues. Secondly, Customs is also a major source of international law. International custom is a set of general practices accepted as law. It includes constant and uniform usage of general practices by most of the States in the international sphere. Thirdly, general principles of law are also a source of international law. These are the general principles of law recognized by civilized nations. Further, judicial decisions and the writing of many scholars are also sources of international law.


The rules and regulations of International Law are created by the consent of the States. Thus, the functions to be performed by the State as per the International Law depend on the free will of the States. The following are the functions of International law-

1.       Maintaining International Peace and Security– Many States resort to activities that are dangerous and disturb international peace. Such activities even threaten the security of other States. In such cases, the rules of international law prevent the states from indulging in violent activities that disturb international peace and security.

2.       Developing friendly relations among the States– International law encourages the State to have friendly relations with each other in trade, diplomacy, human right, international criminal law, etc. This helps the states to maintain international peace and harmony.

3.       International cooperation– The States have many social, economic, cultural problems which can be resolved only by international cooperation among the States. In this way, the States try to resolve their problems peacefully and in a friendly manner.

4.       Forbidding the use of force by the States– International law ensures that no powerful State or group of States threatens or uses force against any weaker State or group of States. This protects the territorial integrity and political independence of the States.

5.       To provide people the right of self –determination–  It is the function or duty of International law to provide the people the right to self-determination. International law also has to provide people with fundamental freedom and human rights. However, the right of self-determination cannot be extended to the right of cessation to certain people in a particular State as this can lead to the disintegration of the State.


     From history, it is evident that in certain cases international law has failed miserably to perform its functions and resolve international disputes. Sometimes the powerful States have made a mockery of international law by violating all rules and regulations set by the international law for the States while dealing with each other. The States that are rich in their natural resources and have good economic development threaten the security and integrity of poor States. Failure of international law in certain cases can be attributed to differences in political ideologies of the States, economic imperialism, differences in the standard of economic development of the States.  However, we cannot ignore the fact that international law has in certain cases succeeded in resolving international disputes and restoring international peace. The States generally prevent themselves from doing anything that violates international law.


From the above discussion, it is clear that international law is a set of legal rules and regulations that regulates the relation between the States while dealing with each other. International law is a set of rapidly developing rules, principles, and practices governing how the States should interact with each other. International law lays guidelines for international interaction not only for States but also international organizations. The scope of international law has widened considerably moving beyond war, peace, diplomacy, human rights, international criminal law, international environmental law, international security law, economic relations, trade issues, and international organizations. International law is a set of independent legal rules outside the legal system of States. The States are careful to ensure that their actions conform to the rules of international law.

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