Current legal issues the use of force in international law
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Current Legal Issues: The Use of Force in International Law. Historical foundations. Introduction. Classical Greece ( ie . From around the 6 th century BC to about the 3 rd century BC) has been very important to European thought

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Current Legal Issues: The Use of Force in International Law

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Current Legal Issues: The Use of Force in International Law

Historical foundations


  • Classical Greece (ie. From around the 6th century BC to about the 3rd century BC) has been very important to European thought

  • A love of knowledge, constant questioning & analysis of man and nature were common themes in Ancient Greece

  • This was spread throughout Europe by Greece and then by Rome (which adopted Greek culture and learning)

  • See Shaw at pp16-18 for more details

Ancient Greece

  • What was “ancient Greece”?

    • A civilisation based around Athens that lasted from approximately 8th/6th century BC – 600AD

  • The ancient Greeks belonged to an individual city-state (a polis)

  • Many treaties linked the city-states together

  • Rights were often granted to the citizens of the states in each other’s territories

  • Rules for protecting diplomatic envoys were developed

  • Rules regarding the declaration of war were developed

  • BUT there was no overall system of international law

  • Note: people who were non-Greek were viewed as ‘barbarians’ and were not entitled to the benefit of any of the Greek laws

Ancient Rome

  • What was “ancient Rome”?

    • A civilisation, centred on Rome, that lasted from approximately 510BC – 480AD

  • The Romans had great respect for the law and for organisation

  • The first Roman “laws” were established in the Twelve Tables around 439 BC – laws written on tablets and displayed in the Forum for all to read

  • The Twelve Tables came about because of the Plebians’ demands for a written code (so that magistrates wouldn’t apply the law arbitrarily)

  • Later, law was a means to unite and organise the various parts of the huge Roman Empire

  • Early Romans developed the jus gentium(which later became known as ‘the law of nations’), although originally it applied only to Roman citizens

Ancient Rome

  • Early Romans embraced “Natural Law”:

    • a body of rules of universal relevance

    • Rational and logical rules

    • Not restricted to any group – of worldwide relevance

    • Human powers of logic and deduction (reasoning) to be used to “discover” the law

    • This is the basis of modern international law

Ancient Rome continued…

  • The Roman laws were put together into the Corpus JurisCivilisin around 534 AD

  • This collating (bringing together of the laws) was ordered by Emperor Justinian I

  • After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Roman laws were largely forgotten until around the 11th century – Italy, University of Bologna set up to study the body of Roman laws

  • Roman law became popular again – was introduced or adopted into virtually all European countries

  • Today: the civil law of Europe is heavily based on the ancient Roman law

  • Even the common law system of England was influenced: many terms in UK law are still Latin (ie. originally from Rome)

The Middle Ages

  • What were “The Middle Ages”?

    • The period in European history from the 5th to the 15th century AD

    • From the fall of the Roman Empire until the beginning of the Renaissance & the Age of Enlightenment

    • This “middle” period is sometimes called “The Middle Ages”, sometimes “medieval”

  • The power of the Church in Europe increased

  • Religious laws gained importance (“canon law”)

  • The Law Merchant(or lexmercatoria in Latin) was developed during the Middle Ages

  • It consisted of rules and customs that traders in Europe agreed upon

  • The Law Merchant was like and international law of business – it was a code, applicable to foreign traders, of universal application

  • The Law Merchant was gradually replaced by national laws, but some of it remains alive today

The Renaissance

  • What was “The Renaissance”?

    • From the 14th-17th centuries

    • Began in Italy

    • Literally means “rebirth”

    • Return to classical Greek and Roman ideas

  • This period saw many important developments:

    • The invention of the printing press – a way to disseminate knowledge

    • The rise of the nation-states of England, France & Spain

    • An international community emerged

    • Decline of the Church, rise of ‘free-thinking’

    • Doctrine of ‘sovereignty’ emerged

The doctrine of ‘sovereignty’

  • What does this word mean?

    • “Supreme power or authority”

    • Supremacy of authority or rule as exercised by a sovereign or sovereign state.

  • The idea was first discussed by Jean Bodin (1530-1596) in 1576

  • Bodinsaid that there must be a sovereign power, within the state, to make laws; that sovereign power would be the supreme legislator

  • This idea, in time, gave states supreme power in relation to other states – each state was ‘above the law’

  • The concept of ‘sovereign states’ is usually dated to the signing of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 when the modern ‘sovereign state’ was born

The 19th century

  • International law became ‘Euroentric’

  • That means, focusing on European culture and history, to the exclusion of a wider view of the world

  • Democracy spread: individuals had a greater say in government

  • Nationalism: popular, especially with the unification of Germany and Italy

  • International law grew rapidly, international treaties and institutions also grew

  • International Committee of the Red Cross was founded in 1863 (responsible for the ‘Geneva Conventions’ and the humanization of conflict)

The 20th century

  • The First World War 1914-1918: led to self-questioning

  • The League of Nations was established, headquarters in The Hague, but it mainly consisted of European powers (the USA and the USSR remained absent for most of the League’s existence)

  • The League of Nations failed to stop major conflicts from breaking out, ultimately it was a failure

  • Permanent Court of International Justice was established in 1921 (later the ICJ was established in 1946)

The 20th century continued…

  • The Second World War (1939-1945) led to the establishment of the United Nations (UN), the successor to the League of Nations

  • Headquarters in New York – a shift away from the previous centre of power (Europe)

  • Trends that began in the 19th century continue today: a vast increase in the number of international agreements and customs, development of international organisations that have continued to contribute to development of international law

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