This article will help you understand the concept of international law, its sources, its roles, and why people should respect it.
What Is International Law?
International law is a body of rules and principles that regulates how states and people interact with one another, as well as how international organisations act with one another. Only rights or disputes between many states or their citizens in case of matters of international concern or transaction are of interest to public international law.
Another well-known spectrum is private international law which is also known as conflict of laws. It is the set of regulations that control international legal disputes between private individuals or other private enterprises. Widely, civil law issues are governed by private international law rules. This includes anything from international business issues, including cross-border contracts and international debt collection, to family difficulties like child abduction or divorce processes.
Sources of International Law
The statute of the International Court of Justice, Article 38, lists five sources for international law:
- Treaties between States (nations),
- Customary international law derived from State practice,
- General principles of law accepted by civilised nations; and as auxiliary means for determining rules of international law,
- Judicial opinions by the most highly qualified publicists,
- And publications by the most highly qualified publicists.
Role of International Law in Protecting Human Rights
In the process of defending our fundamental liberties and human rights, the law is crucial. It makes it possible for us to live in a society where we are subsequently bound by the laws that govern interactions not only between people but also between people and things.
Let us now understand the various activities performed by international law to foster human rights:
- Governments are required to uphold the commitments outlined in international human rights legislation. States take on obligations and duties under international law to respect, preserve, and uphold human rights when they ratify international treaties. States are required to respect human rights by abstaining from interfering with or restricting the exercise of those rights.
- Governments are required under the duty to protect to defend persons and groups from violations of human rights. Governments must take proactive measures to make it easier for people to exercise their fundamental human rights in order to fulfil their commitments.
- Governments commit to enacting domestic policies and laws that are consistent with their commitments and responsibilities under international human rights treaties by ratifying those accords.
- When domestic legal processes fall short of addressing human rights abuses, there are mechanisms and procedures for individual complaints or communications available at the regional and international levels to help ensure that international human rights standards are actually respected, put into practice, and enforced at the local level.
Important International Multilateral Treaties
Now let us understand a few fundamental multilateral treaties and the impact they hold:
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (sometimes known as the “Genocide Convention“) is an international legal document that first established the crime of genocide.
In response to the atrocities done during World War II, the world community vowed to “never again” by adopting the Genocide Convention, which was the first human rights convention, on December 9, 1948.
The International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of This Crime is observed by the United Nations every year on December 9 in observance of the passage of the Genocide Convention.
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966)
The United Nations General Assembly adopted this Covenant on 16th December 1966, and it came into effect on 23rd March 1976.
167 states had ratified the Covenant as of May 2012. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights enumeration of civil and political rights and freedoms is expanded upon in the Covenant. The states pledge to support and uphold the right to self-determination in accordance with Article 1 of the Covenant. It also acknowledges the rights of individuals to freely possess, exchange, and dispose of their natural resources and riches.
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
The United Nations General Assembly (GA) enacted the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) on 16th December 1966 through GA Resolution 2200A (XXI), and it entered into force on 3rd January 1976.
It requires the parties to work to ensure that individuals in non-self-governing and trusted territories have access to economic, social, and cultural rights (ESCR), including labour rights and the rights to health, education, and a living wage.
As of July 2020, the Covenant has 171 parties. The Covenant has been signed by four other nations, including the US, although they have not yet ratified it.
Key Functions Performed by International Law
These are some crucial roles that international law plays:
- To uphold international security and peace.
- To establish global collaboration in resolving economic, social, cultural, and humanitarian issues.
- To grant people the right to self-determination.
- To protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Answering the Question of Why We Should Respect International Law
States should respect international law because it lays out the guidelines that govern the interactions between states. Additionally, it sets out guidelines for a wide range of topics that governments have determined are of global significance. They recognise our right to decide how to live our lives and how to reach the fullest extent of our human potential. They place a strong focus on living a life free from bullying, harassment, and prejudice.
Human rights are generally understood to be a collection of fundamental freedoms that people from all over the world have decided to be necessary. International laws support trade, common interests, justice, and peace.
For instance, maritime law is used to control who has access to the South China Sea and the Arctic Sea because these are highly contested areas.
To lessen and avert human suffering during armed conflict is its main goal. In addition to outlawing attacks on people and the use of specific weapons, international humanitarian law also governs how the injured are treated.
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