International Law, unlike most other areas of law, has no defined area or governing body, but instead refers to the many and varied laws, rules and customs which govern, impact and deal with the legal interactions between different nations, their governments, businesses and organizations, to include their rights and responsibilities in these dealings.
The immense body that makes up international law encompasses a piecemeal collection of international customs; agreements; treaties; accords, charters (i.e. the United Nations Charter); protocols; tribunals; memorandums; legal precedents of the International Court of Justice (aka World Court) and more. Without a unique governing, enforcing entity, international law is a largely voluntary endeavor, wherein the power of enforcement only exists when the parties consent to adhere to and abide by an agreement.
Due to the diverse legal systems and applicable histories of different countries, laws addressing international law include both common law (case law) and civil law (statutes created by governing bodies).
Their application covers all the facets of national law, to include substantive law, procedure, and remedies.
There are three main legal principles recognized in much of international law, which are not required, but are based chiefly on courtesy and respect:
Principle of Comity – in the instance where two nations share common public policy ideas, one of them submits to the laws and judicial decrees of the other.
Act of State Doctrine – respects that a nation is sovereign in its own territory and its official domestic actions may not be questioned by the judicial bodies of another country. It dissuades courts from deciding cases that would interfere with a country’s foreign policy.
Doctrine of Sovereign Immunity – deals with actions brought in the court of one nation against another foreign nation and prevents the sovereign state from being tried in court without its consent.
There are both national laws and international agreements which govern/regulate international business transactions, which include investments, offshore banking, contracts, imports/exports, tariffs, dumping, trade to name but a few.
Although there is no definitive governing body overseeing international law, the United Nations is the most widely recognized and influential international organization and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is its judicial counterpart.
To qualify as a subject under the traditional definition of international law, a state had to be sovereign: It needs a territory, a population, a government, and the ability to engage in diplomatic or foreign relations.
Individuals do not fall within the definition of subjects that enjoyed rights and obligations under international law.
A more contemporary definition expands the traditional notions of international law to confer rights and obligations on intergovernmental international organizations and even on individuals. The United Nations, for example, is an international organization that has the capacity to engage in treaty relations governed by and binding under international law with states and other international organizations.
Individual responsibility under international law is particularly significant in the context of prosecuting war criminals and the development of international Human Rights.
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