International Law


What is international law?

International law, commonly referred to as "public international law," regulates relations and activities between nations. It also contains rules regarding the operations of international organizations, such as the United Nations. In addition, it governs state treatment of individuals and juridical persons (i.e., non-natural persons, such as a corporation, association or partnership).

International law is distinct from "private international law" (also known as "conflict of laws"), which regulates dealings between individuals and juridical persons from different nations.

Note that international law refers to nations as sovereign states. In this context, sovereign states does not mean states within a nation. Furthermore, in the United States, individual states lack authority to engage in international dealings. The U.S. Constitution explicitly denies states this power, and vests it with the federal government. (U.S. Const. Art. I, § 10).

International law encompasses several areas, such as international trade, the creation and dissolution of states, use of force (regarding when a state may initiate force against another state), armed conflict ("humanitarian law", which regulates how a state conducts an armed conflict), human rights (which are set forth in several international instruments, such as the Declaration of Human Rights), refugees, crimes, environment, labor, the sea, air space, and postal services.






  • ITLOS Finds Guinea-Bissau Liable to Panama for Arrest of M/V Virginia G April 15, 2014 The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) issued its decision today in the case of the M/V Virginia G, an oil tanker flying the flag of Panama, which was arrested by officials from Guinea-Bissau because the vessel...
  • 20th Anniversary of the Signing of the WTO Agreements April 15, 2014 Twenty years ago today (April 15, 2014), the Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization (WTO) and its Annexes were signed in Marrakesh, Morocco. The agreements concluded the 1986-94 Uruguay Round of negotiations and were signed by 123…
  • Is the "Yarn-Forward" Rule Forwarding Free Trade? April 15, 2014 The answer may depend on whom you ask. Indeed, against the background of the recent TPP negotiation this particular origin rule offers a unique lens through which one can investigate a complex relationship of free trade, political economy and…
  • Disaster Displacement: Gaps in International Norms April 15, 2014 by Kristen Boon by Kristen Boon There is an interesting interview with Professor Walter Kahlin, former Representative of the UN Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, on disaster displacement over at the IPI's Global…
  • Egypt Officially Asks U.S. for MoU to Protect Cultural Heritage April 15, 2014 The Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) is scheduled to take up Egypt's formal request to have American import protections placed on endangered archaeological material originating from that country. The Federal Register today pre-published a…