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Law is the factor that ties society's members together in their adherence to accepted norms and values. It consists of regulations that govern behavior and, to some extent, represent the ideologies and concerns of society.

The laws and guidelines that govern how nations and international organizations should behave in their cross-border interactions are known as international law[1]. The structure of international law is intended to promote and defend human rights at both international and domestic levels. International law is the body of legislation that establishes the rules and norms which apply between a sovereign state and other entities. It is also known as public international law or the law of nations.


A system of treaties and agreements is known as international law. It regulates how governments interact with their citizens and other countries. Every country creates laws to maintain peace and security and regulate society.

· According to Encarta Encyclopaedia:

International law is a body of laws, principles, rules, and standards that govern nations and other participants in international affairs with one another.

· In Layman’s Language:

International law is the law of the international community. The term 'International Law' was used by Jeremy Bentham in 1780. The expression Law of Nations is synonymous with the term international law[2]. It acts as a legal framework at the global level to ensure stable and organized international relations.

· According to Fenwick:

It is the body of rules accepted by the general community of nations as defining their rights and the means of procedure by which those rights may be protected or violations of them redressed.

· According to J.G. Starke:

It is that body of law, made up of the majority of its principles and rules of conduct, that states feel obligated to follow and, as a result, commonly follow in their interactions with one another.


International law falls into two groups:

1) Private International Law

It considers the conflicts between private entities, such as individuals or companies, which have a significant relationship with more than one country.

2) Public International Law

When international law governs relationships and intercourse between two States, it is known as Public international law. Deals with relations between countries which include universal norms of conduct, the law of the seas, economic law, or diplomatic law[3].

Objectives of International Law:

  1. To ensure peace and safety in the world.

  2. To peacefully resolve any dispute.

  3. To cooperate, to pursue a better and more promising future for humanity.

  4. Disarmament, particularly nuclear weapons, and fostering international trust through confidence-building measures;

  5. Taking a cooperative effort to address world issues like terrorism, climate change, the refugee crisis, etc.

  6. International law focuses on the implementation of international treaties and conventions.


International law as domestic law did not evolve overnight; its origin can be traced back in history; Municipal law's relationship to international law is more complex and reliant on a country's domestic laws.

Modern international law evolved during the 15th century and was developed on the European continent[4]. Written agreements known as treaties are enforceable between the parties and require their signatures and ratification.

· Treaty of Mesilim- One of the oldest known wars was fought between Umma and Lagash. It led to the world’s first peace treaty and one of the oldest legal documents[5]. This treaty, which established a border between these two states and was marked with a stele beside an irrigation canal, was signed.

· Treaty of Westphalia- A significant turning point in the development of international law was the adoption of the Westphalian System. It recognized the concept of "The Nation States," which are free-standing, The Treaty of Westphalia was approved on October 24th, 1648. It marked the end of a war that lasted for 30 years. The agreement ending the thirty years war, one of the most destructive in Europe's history, was named after the Westphalia region in northwest Germany.

Events that led to the growth of International Law:

· Vienna Convention (1815)

The Congress of Vienna is known as the watershed movement in the evolution of international law.

Klemens von Metternich, an Austrian statesman, served as its chairman. The ambassadors of European nations were present to provide a long-term peace strategy for Europe. It laid down the international issues about international rivers, the classification of diplomatic agents, etc.

· Declaration of Paris (1856)

It is another important landmark. In this declaration, 55 countries endorsed the diplomatic policy related to the Maritime Law. This declaration also laid down the rules relating to naval warfare. The main principle that emerged from it was the prohibition of attacks on undefended people. It provides a safeguard for the crew of a sinking ship.

· Geneva Convention (1864)

The first Geneva Convention treaty was established in 1864, reframed, and amended in 1906, 1929, and 1949.

It establishes rules and regulations to protect victims of armed conflict and the people involved in providing care to them. This treaty prohibited the killing of injured soldiers.

· Hague Convention of 1899 and 1907

Two conventions for the peaceful settlement of international disputes were held in The Hague, Netherlands. Throughout the battle, this convention was crucial for the development of international law. Important outcomes of this agreement included restrictions on weapons, the duties and rights of sovereign states, and the ban on bombarding undefended civilians[6]. The Permanent Court of Arbitration was created as a consequence of this convention. Due to the outbreak of the First War, the third conference that was supposed to take place in 1914 was postponed.

· Treaty of Versailles (1919)

The Treaty of Versailles was the basic treaty established by the Paris Peace Conference at the end of World War I.

The treaty, also known as the Foundation of the League of Nations (1920), was signed by the president of the United States, Thomas Woodrow Wilson. The treaty also established the International Labour Organization and the Permanent Court of International Justice (later the International Court of Justice)[7].

· Kellogg Briand Pact (1928)

The "Pact of Paris" is another name for the General Treaty for the Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy. It was planned to prevent conflict from starting. This treaty compelled countries to reject the practice of resolving international disputes by war.

· The United Nations (1945)

The failure of the league of nations led to the Second World War. After World War II, the United Nations, a new organization, emerged to protect the world from future wars.

It was established on 24th October 1945, when the leaders of 50 nations gathered in San Francisco for a summit and drafted the UN Charter. This organization is currently a nodal point for international law. It strives to maintain world peace and security, foster goodwill among states, and promote international collaboration.

19th Century Developments

i) The nuclear age and the space age introduced significant developments in international law. The Space Law Foundation was founded in the 1960s under the auspices of the United Nations. Treaties were signed, allowing for the internationalization of space (1967) and other celestial bodies (1979).

ii) The Treaty of the Limited Test Ban (1963) prohibited nuclear testing in the atmosphere, space, and underwater[8]. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, signed in 1968, aimed to limit the spread of nuclear weapons. The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks Agreements, signed in 1972 by the US and the USSR, restricted both offensive and defensive weapons systems.

Development of International Law in India

· It is impossible to exaggerate India's contribution to international law. India has also harmonized many of its domestic laws with international standards and norms to meet its international obligations.

· Implementing international law in India might be seen from the perspective of each government's position or the perspective of each legal field;

· The United Nations Organization (UNO) was formed as an international organization to avoid the failure of the Third World War[9]. It maintains international peace and stability and upholds human rights. With that purpose in mind, on 10 December 1948, the nations gathered together and adopted and ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


International law, divided into two categories as mentioned above, plays a major role in governing the nations of the world.

International law is a body of legislation that is constantly being developed because there is so much new information and advancement made by the world that needs to be incorporated so that it can serve all people worldwide. National and international legal systems operate in their domain without any assumption of conflict or antagonism toward each other. Both systems are significant, and mutually beneficial and interact with one another in the modern setting of several transboundary concerns. For example, the state has the primary responsibility for the implementation of HR, the secondary responsibility lies with international authority formed under international law.

-- [1] [2] [3] [Dr. Gurdip Singh], International Law 143 [Eastern Book Company 2015] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

This article is written by Simran Mishra of Fairfield institute of Management and technology.

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