Public International Law

Public International Law ChairsAn Introduction to Public International Law

Definition of Public International Law:

Public International Law is that branch of law which deals with code of conduct including rights and duties of Sovereign States. The term sovereign states include other analogous entities like International Organisations, Inter-Governmental Organisation.
With phenomenal increase in global trade in last century popularly called Globalisation, many laws affecting Corporations and Individuals having presence in multiple countries and jurisdictions are also part of Public International Law.

Private International law is different from Public International Law in as much as the former deals with rights, liabilities and resolutions of disputes of private citizens or corporations with reference to the principles of conflict of laws.

Sources of Public International Law:

There are three sources of International law:
1. Laws of nations or jus gentium
2. International Conventions, Agreements and treaties or jus inter gentes.
3. Unilateral declaration of policies.

Jus Gentium:

The concept of jus gentium was evolved in Roman Legal system which carried on in the west as part of traditional or customary law. These customs recognized the sovereignty of nations which were severely shaken with the decline of authority of Pope and colonization of sovereign states by several European Nations. However conclusion of Second World War restored the principle of sovereignty of nations with restoration of independence of formerly colonized nations.
Cold war between Russia and USA and Non Aligned Movement further resuscitated the concept of friendship among nations in spite of the fact that the nations were divided in several blocs.

Jus Inter Gentes:

Apart from bilateral or multilateral treatise against the nations like NATO, United Nations, its resolutions, conventions and agreements/treaties are major source of Public International Law.
There treaties creating obligations for signatory States often serve as a customary precedent for non signatory countries and therefore is also a source of Public International Law. International Law is not a rigid body of codified law but is always in somewhat fluid state in which interaction or set of behavior between two or more states create customary law which in turn may or may not be followed by other states.

Enforcement of International Law:

In case of dispute about application or enforcement of Municipal/ National Laws, the duty and power is rested with the courts to set the things in order.  The Public International Law stands on different footing and therefore is far more complex in enforcement.
There is however an International Court of Justice which is constituted with judges from various nationalities but the jurisdiction of this court is voluntary. In other words, unless the States, party to dispute, submit and agree to be bound by the jurisdiction of ICJ, either by a treaty or consent, ICJ has no jurisdiction what so ever.
In respect of the laws and duties created by UN through its rules and resolutions, if a member state is found in breach, the matter can be referred to the security council which is competent to employ various steps for enforcement of law. While one of it’s methods are sanctions or prohibitions trade dealing with erring State. It may restrict military or diplomatic dealings with the erring State or impose a complete embargo to isolate such State.
In addition to the above passive actions, the Security Council of United Nations can also take direct action in the form of enforcement at ground level with the use of its own forces, which are drawn from the member States. In fact all the forces of United Nations consist of a joint army commissioned from voluntary member States.
The enforcement of bilateral treaties is even more complex. Unless the treaty itself provide for remedy for its breach by one of the parties to the treaty, the aggrieved Sate often has no remedy at all. Due to this reason, it is often said that a treaty between two States is often not worth the price of paper on which it is written.

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