International Law Law between nations
Addressing global challenges • Three approaches: • Unilaterally, through individual nation-states. • Multilaterally, through international organizations (particularly the UN) and international law. • Citizen movements • Protests of globalization • Boycotts of products from repressive regimes
Citizen movements • International protests: • Nov. 1999 protest in Seattle against WTO (too secretive & non-democratic in decision-making; undercuts national environmental & labor laws) 500,000 people from 77 countries. No formal organization. Heard about it from the Internet. • International boycotts: • South African apartheid regime (1945 to 1992) promoted official racist policies. Ended peacefully due to international boycotts. • Efforts today to pressure divestiture of companies doing business with the Sudan.
Addressing global challenges • Focus today on the second of the approaches: Multilateralism, working through international organizations, including international courts. The primary actor in this arena is the United Nations.
United Nations • Created after WWII (1945) by 50 nation-states. Headquarters in New York City. • Purpose: to promote peace and security. • Current number of member states: 191
United Nations Organization • Six principal organs: • General Assembly: all member states • Security Council: has the most power • Economic and Social Council • Trusteeship Council • International Court of Justice • Secretariat: administration • Additional 15 agencies & programs
United Nations Security Council • The only body that can make binding decisions relating to international security. • Permanent members: US, UK, Russia, China, France. • Ten non-permanent members with 2-yr terms. • Each Council member has one vote. • Procedural matters need 9 of 15 votes to pass. • Substantive matters need 9 of 15, including no veto from any of the five permanent members.
United Nations Security Council • Meeting in April 2006 to discuss terrorist strikes in Egypt.
United Nations Organization • Other agencies & programs include: • World Health Organization • UNICEF: UN Children’s Fund • Office of UN High Commissioner for Refugees • Commission on the Status of Women • Commission on Crime Prevention & Criminal Justice • Commission on Science & Technology
United Nations & international law • The UN has played a key role in fostering international law’s development. Sponsored more than 500 multilateral treaties & conventions, dealing with issues that range from the rights of children to tracking international terrorists.
United Nations & international law Efforts still underway: • On May 9 (exam day), the General Assembly will hold the first elections for the newly created Human Rights Council. • The HRC was created by the General Assembly on March 15, to promote “ universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind and in a fair and equal manner.”
History of modern international law • International law predates the UN. Emerged in 1648 (Peace of Westphalia), with the end of the 30-Years War that devastated Europe. • Key ideas: 1. nation-states recognized as the primary international actors. 2. effort to secure long-term peace. Not successful, but it was the first of many such efforts in 19th & 20th centuries.
International law • Rules developed over centuries of customary practice, most of which are now formalized in treaties & conventions. • International law recognizes certain rights and obligations that nation-states have toward one another. Nation-states are expected to act in certain ways; that creates a legal obligation.
Sources of international law • 1. Custom, as evidence of a general practice. The oldest source of international legal norms. • 2. International conventions or treaties. • 3. General principles of law recognized by “civilized nations.” • 4. Judicial decisions and teachings of top legal scholars of the various nations as a subsidiary means of determining legal norms.
How do we know if a custom can be considered a binding law? 1. Duration or passage of time. 2. Substantial uniformity or consistency of usage by the affected nations 3. Generality of the practice or degree of abstention 4. International consensus (need not be unanimous) that the custom is binding. International custom evolves slowly through compromise and consistency of application.
Issues covered by international law • Human rights • Diplomacy & state recognition • Use of force • Immigration & borders • Economics & trade • Arms control • International crime • Environmental issues • Areas held in common (oceans, outer space)
Not like national legal systems • Plaintiffs & defendants are nation-states, not individuals. • World Court or International Court of Justice (ICJ). It handles cases involving nation-states. • International Criminal Court (ICC). Created by the Rome Statute. A permanent criminal court, with authority to try individuals for war crimes.
Concepts needed for mock trial • Jurisdiction • Jus Cogens • Sovereign immunity • Genocide
Jurisdiction A court’s authority to hear and decide a case. In U.S. law, the Constitution & Congress set the jurisdiction of the federal courts. • In international law, states themselves decide if the ICJ has jurisdiction over them. Concession to concerns about sovereignty. • The ICC also only applies to nation-states that have accepted it. (U.S. not a signatory)
Concept of Jus Cogens • Norms so important that they have the highest status in international law and they apply even to states have not accepted them (for example, through a treaty). • Very few norms have been considered jus cogens, because it conflicts with notion of sovereignty. • Possibly includes: Prohibitions on the aggressive use of force, fundamental human rights (bans on genocide, slavery, torture, racial discrimination).
Sovereign immunity • The leader of a nation-state considered immune from prosecution in the courts of other states. Important attribute of sovereignty. • Note that this is the defense of Saddam Hussein
Genocide • The intentional extermination of a people or race as a matter of government policy. • Normally, under the concept of sovereignty, external actors cannot interfere in a country’s internal affairs. However, the Convention against Genocide makes stopping genocide an obligation on all states.