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

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

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

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 rome1

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

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

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

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

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 19 th century

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 20 th century

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 20 th century continued

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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