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Introduction and Overview of International Law

Autor:   •  August 21, 2017  •  2,984 Words (12 Pages)  •  234 Views

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Activity 1.2

Write down three or four examples of modern situations or problems which require speedier formulation of international law. Include these in your notes.

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Reading

Read Mitchell & Beard, Chapter One, or Hall, pp.1-8.

International law in the last 80 years has developed more through treaties and conventions than by customary international law. A major problem of international law is to determine how and when to incorporate(吸收,包含) new standards of behaviour into existing frameworks so that the system remains relevant and is not too disruptive(破坏的,分裂性的). The scope of international law is immense – from such topics as the regulation of space expeditions(太空探险), the ocean floor, protection of human rights, to how to deal with particular environmental problems. The current system of international law developed in the context of European civilisation as it progressed (see Harris, pp.12-13). This has changed since the rise of the US and the then USSR, together with the decline of Europe and the impact of developing countries because of decolonisation(非殖民地化). International law has had to deal with changes in world structures or power and, in particular, with the cultures of developing nations and the role they play in the development of the rules that apply in the international context.

State policies and balances of power, both international and regional, are a necessary framework within which international law operates. International law mirrors the concerns of forces within states and between states. International law has not just expanded to embrace new states but has also been extended to include individual groups and international organisations within its scope. In addition, international law has moved into new fields, for example, international trade, the environment and outer space.

There has also been a change of focus from sovereign states to other entities including individuals and international organisations, and non-state entities. As a result, the range of topics covered by international law has expanded in that it is no longer exclusively concerned with issues relating to the territory or jurisdiction of states. The types of matters that are now taken into account deal with the specialised problems of contemporary society, for example, global environmental problems and human rights.

There are critics of international law who are of the view that international law is not an effective regime, particularly when it comes to enforcement. However, one must not overlook major examples of international law working effectively, for example, the setting up of the International War Crimes Tribunal(法庭), telecommunications cooperation, and the agreement of a number of conventions which deal with global environmental problems.

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Activity 1.3

Think of three or four more examples of the effective operation of international law and add these to your notes.

This unit will introduce you to some of the main issues, vocabulary, structures and rules within the international legal system which affect the way that it works.

3. Overview of the topics covered in this unit

I have endeavoured to select topics for this unit which deal with the basic principles and institutional structures of international law, together with some current issues. I will now set out a brief overview of the topics we will cover.

Topic 1: Introduction and overview of international law: The nature of international law

This week we begin by providing a road map of where we are going in this unit and what to expect. We will also briefly examine the theories of international law and attempt to address questions such as ‘What is international law?’ and ‘Is international law really law?’ The aim is to begin to develop an understanding of the nature of international law.

Topic 2: The sources of international law

We start off by examining Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice which sets out from where the Court must ascertain the law it applies in its decisions. Of those sources listed in Article 38 the most important are customary international law (similar to the English concept of the common law) and international treaties. There are also other sources we will look at, for example, the status of UN Resolutions.

Topic 3: International legal institutions: The United Nations

In Topic 4 we will consider the United Nations which is an institution of major importance in international law and concentrate on its organisation and structure. The United Nations will again be dealt with in more detail in Topic 12: The use of force.

Topic 4: International legal institutions: The International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. It plays an important role in the international legal order and we will examine the organisation of the Court.

Topic 5: Statehood(国家地位) and recognition

This topic discusses what entities have legal capacity in international law. The most obvious is the nation state – but what is a ‘state’? How does one define a ‘state’ at international law? There are also other actors on the international law stage, including international organisations, individuals, administrative territories, corporations. What is their status at international law? The other part of the topic concerns the issue of recognition of states, in particular upon a territory gaining independence. Related to this topic is the effect of recognition of states and governments in municipal law.

Topic 6: Acquisition of territory

This topic examines the means by which a state acquires territory at international law. The recognised means of acquisition are discovery, occupation and prescription, cession(割让), conquest and subjugation(征服), accretion(添加) and evulsion, acquiescence and recognition. We will also discuss the limitations on sovereignty over the territory.

Topic 7: State jurisdiction

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