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Varshita Mangamoori
What is International Law

■ Law? Binds members of a community to certain recognised values. Could be

coercive or permissive.
■ International Law
■ Difference between Private International Law (Conflict of Laws) and Public
International Law
■ Importance of Public International Law- lays out an indispensable framework for the
practice of stable and organised international relations.
■ Content of Public International Law
Historical evolution of International law

■ Modern International Law has its origins in Renaissance Europe- in its concepts of
Nation State, sovereignty, non-intervention, representative democracy, etc.
■ Roots in Ancient times- concepts of jus gentium, treaty making
Ancient times

■ Lacked the concept of an international community. As a result, most developments were

geographically and culturally restricted. Therefore, little scope for ‘international law’
■ Still, certain ideals that evolved then continue to be a part of international law today.
■ For instance, sanctity of treaties. The earliest treaties went back to Mesopotamia- a
stone inscription prescribing boundaries between two city-States. There was also an
agreement between the Kings of Egypt and Hittities calling for ‘eternal peace and
brotherhood’ between the two.
■ Classical Greece (6th century)- right of citizens in each other’s territories, rules for
sanctity and protection of diplomatic envoys, practices to be followed before declaration
of war.
■ The concept of ‘jus gentium’ that developed in the Roman empire that set the pace for
Universality of law.
Middle Ages

■ The development of law in Middle Ages revolved around the rise and fall of the Holy
Roman Empire, increased trade dealings among nations, devastation caused by the
Thirty Years War.
■ Initially, authority of the Holy Roman Empire and the supranational character of
canon law (all of Europe was one religion)
■ Fall of Empire-> Disintegration into territorially consolidated independent units->
Rise of Multiple Nation-States-> Increased interaction- Need for regulation.
■ They lacked an empire or a dominant religious leadership to regulate dealings
among them. Therefore, Europe looked to the Justinian Code of Law and the canon
law of the Catholic church for guidance.
■ Economically, increased volume and complexity of trade
■ Hanseatic League- International customs to facilitate trade
■ Law Merchant by English Law- code of rules covering foreign traders and was
declared to be of universal application.
■ Mercantile Courts
■ Maritime customs based on Rhodian Sea Law
These were expressions of national legal systems but laid foundations of international
trade law.
■ Devastation caused by the Thirty Years War- Outcry for rules to protect civilians
■ Westphalian Treaty- State sovereignty and the norm of non-interference in another
State’s domestic affairs.
Both these principles became central to international law and the prevailing world
Modern times

■ 18th century- philosophers such as Suarez, Gentili, and Grotius gave us rationalist philosophies.
■ 19th century was a practical, expansionist, positivist era. New World Order based on European
Balance of Power, Industrial Revolution, Concepts of democracy and Nationalism
■ Freedom of Navigation established by the Final Act of Vienna Congress (1814)
■ International Telegraphic Union was created (1865); Universal Postal Union (1874)
■ International Committee of Red Cross (1863) promoted a series of Geneva Conventions dealing
with ‘humanisation of conflict’;
■ Hague Conferences of 1899 & 1907 establishing the PCA, treatment of prisoners and control of
International law became Eurocentric i.e. though it became geographically internationalised through the
expansion of the European empire, conceptually, it became less universalist and more a reflection of
European values.
■ World War I undermined foundations of European Civilisation.
■ League of Nations- military and economic sanctions to punish aggression- crippled in
functioning as evidenced by the Japanese invasion of China in 1931, Italian invasion of
Ethiopia, Germany’s transgressions culminating in the World War II.
■ UNO- More than 200 States have voluntarily acceded to the UN Charter and other
■ The field of International law is expanding to areas beyond war including many significant
areas on which the survival of human race depends such as environmental law, and
many emerging areas such as law on outer space and air space.
■ Vast increase in its field, move towards formalisation (through treaties), strengthening of
arbitration, proliferation of International organisations- IL as it is today.