International law consists of rules, principles, and regulations that govern the relationship between sovereign states, citizens and other nations, and between international organizations. Issues covered by international law include international crime, migration, refugees, disarmament, war, prisoners, among others. Other matters that are of global concern, such as world trade, international waters, and global communications, also fall under international law.
International laws are categorized as either public or private international law. Public international law is concerned with the relations between nations. It also oversees the activities of international organizations such as the United Nations (UN) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). So basically, all major issues that affect humankind are governed by public international laws. Some of these issues include the environment, oceans, international business, and human rights.
Private international law, on the other hand, deals with controversies relating to private entities such as people, or corporations. These controversies must have a direct relationship with more than one nation. For instance, if a buyer purchasing a product from an organization in the United States through the internet encounters an issue, to sue the American company, they have to refer to guidelines relating to private international law. However, the line between private and public international laws remains a blur, especially when an issue relates to both private and public international law.
Sources of International Laws
There are two primary sources of international law: international customary law and the law of treaty.
- International customary laws are derived from general practices acknowledged and accepted as law. It covers all written and unwritten rules that comprise the general aspect of international justice. International customary law is legally binding upon all states, including those that did not ratify the treaty. A perfect example of customary international law is the rule of civilian protection during armed violence.
- Treaty Law comprises of written agreements that are approved and signed by states. These agreements only govern the relationships between member states. Unlike international customary law, treaty laws are only binding to member countries that have approved and ratified the laws. Similar to the contract law, all the rules agreed upon by the parties must be fulfilled and honored.
Since the majority of international laws are developed from the law of treaty, it is usually upon the member countries involved in the ratification process to enforce the law. However, there are several international organizations mandated with the role of enforcing certain treaties. A good example of such organizations is the United Nations (UN), with a total of 192 member nations.