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Selina Pascale

Selina Pascale


Total Article : 213

About Me:I'm a graduate student studying International Criminal Law and first started writing for King's News almost 4 years ago! My hobbies include reading, travelling and charity work. I cover many categories but my favourite articles to write are about mysteries of the ancient world, interesting places to visit, the Italian language and animals!

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International Law

International Law

Many students of international relations underestimate the importance of laws and the legal regimes which uphold them. Throughout the history of international relations so much attention has continuously been drawn to pacts, policies and laws as national actors devote countless amounts of time to drafting new legal regimes and critiquing old norms. An introduction to international law is therefore much needed in this category.


From a realist perspective the international system is innately at war as nations struggle for power and protection. This led scholar Hedley Bull to view international laws a safety net which create international order to benefit most states. A common error people make is to assume that international institutions and organisations are the same thing: whilst the first is a set of rules and norms that ‘prescribe behavioural roles, constrain activity and shape expectations’ (Keohane 1989a:3) international organisations, like the UN, are real physical organisations which have a hierarchy of staff members and offices. This means that international institutions can exist without a structure with head offices, although many institutions share similar organisational features as organisations.


Generally speaking, there are three levels of international relations: constitutional institutions, fundamental institutions and issue-specific institutions which are also known as ‘regimes’. Constitutional institutions refer to a set of elementary rules which keep the international society in order, such as the norm of sovereignty which is then upheld by other secondary norms. Fundamental institutions look at multilateralism and consist in secondary yet fundamental laws which facilitate the coexistence of states within the international realm. Lastly, issue-specific institutions are focus on the decision-making procedures of specific international aspects, such as global climate change which the Framework Convention on Global Climate Change is heavily involved in. International law is a big focus point of fundamental institutions.

International  law is the product of a revolution in social thought which occurred in Europe during the 16th Century. Prominent philosophers Hugo Grotius and Emerich de Vattel are known as two of the ‘fathers’ of international law and throughout the next few centuries the Treaties of Augsburg (1555), Westphalia (1648) and Utrecht (1712) are considered to be great strides for the growth of international law.  Prior to the 19th Century most European states were monarchies in which the king or queen governed the land by divine right of God, hence the law was perceived as the word of the divine ruler. Indeed the law of god and the law of nature were the binding features of any norms. The spread of liberalist and nationalist ideologies  during the 18th and 19th Century challenged the divine right to rule of kings and queens and encouraged the view of joint governance with parliament, thus law was no longer seen as a divine order but rather a reciprocal agreement. When this vision of law was perceived by the majority of nations the idea spread to multilateral agreements and international relations which led to contractual international law or ‘positive’ law. This meant that the conception of law transformed into a ‘mutual will of the nations concerned’ (Von Martens 1975:47-48).


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