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International Law

Internet resources on International Law

International Law has a distinguished history, but the tragic events of 11 September 2001 and its aftermath have certainly brought it into sharper focus.  In this time of conflict, academics, lawyers and politicians are examining many issues of international law, particularly in areas such as armed conflict, terrorism, universal sovereignty and human rights. This is especially acute at a time when the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague is proceeding against Slobodan Milosevic  http://www.un.org/icty/index.html

What, therefore, is international law and what areas of international relations does it cover?  Even a cursory examination shows the coverage to be extensive.  However, where is the citizen to go for information?  A good textbook, meant primarily for the beginning student, might be the 2001 edition of Antonio Cassese's 'International Law'.

A vast amount of information on international law and related issues is available through the Internet.  This primer offers an initial introduction, particularly for IRCs and researchers not familiar with the subject. It is inevitably selective and does not cover the full spread of subjects, including trade, http://www.wto.org  or financial institutions, http://www.worldbank.org

Search Engines

General searches on International Law issues should always begin with the Librarian’s Index to the Internet, the Internet Public Library or the WWW Virtual Libraries Sites all of which maintain their own internal search engines. Typing in “International Law” in these search engines will yield the best and most authoritative Internet sites.

Portals and Gateways

At least seven excellent portals offer extensive gateways into international law:

  1. Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute maintains a very useful gateway to national laws, trade law and international law: http://www.law.cornell.edu/world/
  2. The Library Legal Law Exchange offers excellent resources for the study of International Law: http://www.llrx.com/international_law.html
  3. The Virtual Chase (a fantastic learning tool for any researcher, offering tutorials in many specific subject areas) offers a section on International Law at: http://virtualchase.justia.com/. (also offers resources on Country Studies) Another Virtual Chase exclusive is a tutorial on where to locate State, Local and International Resources at
  4. Guide to Electronic Resources for International Law http://www.ajil.org/resource/home.htm This forms part of the website of the American Journal of International Law.  After an introductory section, the guide is divided into different subject areas e.g. human rights, international economic law, treaties and so on.  The guide has additional value because it not only provides extensive links through its subject headings but also includes a narrative for each entry, which helps to more readily identify appropriate sites.  Highly recommended.
  5. Legal Research on International Law Issues Using the Internet http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/~llou/forintlaw.html The University of Chicago Law School maintains this website. It has an extensive array of links with a table of contents more detailed than that provided by the AJIL.  However, there is little narrative and links are simply identified through a generic title.  This, however, will prove to be a useful supplement to the AJIL guides.
  6. Guide to Foreign and International Legal Databases  http://www.law.nyu.edu/library/foreign_intl/ Maintained by the New York University School of Law, the website provides access to a vast array of databases covering subjects from taxation, copyright to environmental, international, international trade, international criminal law and human rights.

Institutional Websites

The websites of a few of the principal institutions of international law include the following:

United Nations: http://www.un.org/english 

International Court of Justice: http://www.icj-cij.org

  • The ICJ, which sits at The Hague, was set up in 1945 under the UN Charter and acts as a world court. Its website provides extensive information on the Court, its history, purpose, members, decisions, texts on key cases.

International Criminal Court: http://www.un.org/law/icc/index.html

  • The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court was adopted in 1998 by a UN conference and opened for signature.  It has now received the required 60 ratifications and will enter into force on 1 July 2002.  It has been ratified by the UK but not the USA. The website is very detailed, providing overviews, ratification status, access to key documents, and associated bodies.

International Law Commission: http://www.un.org/

  • The UN General Assembly established the ILC in 1947 to promote the progressive development of international law and its codification. It meets annually and is composed of 34 members elected as independents by the General Assembly for five-year terms. Most of ILC's work involves preparation of drafts on topics of international law. The website provides full access to key documentation and the working of the ILC.

Human Rights

The question of human rights is now a central concern of international relations and international law. Websites abound and those below offer a useful introduction:

Amnesty International  

  • http://www.amnesty.org This award winning website needs no introduction, this is the premier Human Rights organization in the field.  Website includes news, copies of reports and links to other websites.

Directory of Human Rights Resources on the Internet

  • http://shr.aaas.org/dhr The Directory provides descriptions and links to hundreds of human rights organizations worldwide on the Internet, organized by site name, topical focus, and geographical focus. 

Human Rights Internet  

  • http://www.hri.ca/ Based in Ottawa, the HRI aims to offer human rights activists and organisations in particular, but also governments and international agencies, an information resource on human rights issues and the role of civil society. The website includes access to full text reports on various topics, including international law.  It also offers a range of subscription databases.  One of its most useful (free) tools is the Human Rights Internet Directory, a searchable database of human rights websites recorded by site context, features, geographical focus, key words and more.

Human Rights Library  

  • http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/index.html A website maintained by the University of Minnesota with access to over 7,000 human rights documents on subjects ranging from treaties and UN documents to bibliographies and research guides, together with links to 3,600 other sites. Includes a section on treaties and other international instruments.

Human Rights Watch  

  • http://www.hrw.org The largest human rights organization based in the United States, with worldwide links and offices in other countries, including London.  Its website again offers a huge resource, including country briefings, specific country reports and the full text of its World Report (currently 2002).

Interights 

  • http://www.interights.org The International Center for the Legal Protection of Human Rights, is an international human rights law centre established in 1982.  It aims to support and promote the development of legal protection for human rights and freedoms worldwide.  Its website includes databases on Commonwealth and international case law.  Also available is a lengthy and detailed analysis on 'Responding to September 11: The Framework of International Law' by the Legal Director of Interights, Helen Duffy. Maintains a section on International Case Law.

Some key documents are:

Journals

There has been a proliferation of, primarily U.S., Law School Journals.  Many have their own websites with content lists, though few have online texts.  Useful general websites for identifying law journals include:

Law Reviews  

  • http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/lawrev.htm is a website maintained by the Jurist Legal Education network listing a vast range of law review journals.
  • The best single site for full text access is the European Journal of International Law  http://www.ejil.org It has complete access for Vols 1 (1990) to 9 (1998) and abstracts and selected full-text articles from 1999 onwards.

The excellent American Journal of International Law  http://www.asil.org/

  • has an index of the issues from 1997 onwards and selected articles online from each issue.  Full text is available through Lexis Professional subscription.  The Stanford Journal of International Law  http://www.law.stanford.edu/ has full contents pages going back to Vol 26, (1990), and the American University International Law Review  http://www.wcl.american.edu/pub/ilr/home.htm  has useful abstracts for all issues.  But Emory International Law Review offers full-text online  http://www.law.emory.edu/ 

Other Sources

There are a range of other websites containing useful information and material:

Avalon Project  

  • http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/avalon.htm at the Yale Law school giving access to a vast array of documents in law, history and diplomacy from the 18th to the 21st centuries e.g. the Monroe Doctrine, Balfour Declaration, UN Charter and so on.  It has them sorted by year, by major collection (e.g. U.S. multilateral treaties from 1864-1999), bibliography and a search facility. Excellent site which also includes a human rights archive.

International Law Dictionary and Directory 

  • http://august1.com/pubs/dict/index.shtmlThis includes definitions of words and phrases; descriptions and acronyms of international organisations with links; country links; and online legal guides, resources, materials and search engines.

Internet Law Library  

Legal Essays on the Web  

  • http://www.law.cam.ac.uk/ Another website maintained by the Faculty of Law at the University of Cambridge, it gives access to a large number of academic essays arranged according to subject e.g. administrative law, human rights, international law and so on.

United States

US Government  

  • http://www.firstgov.gov The official U.S. Government website with full and extensive links to all parts of the administration.

US State Department  http://www.state.gov

  • These are other valuable website from the State Department in relation to international law and international relations and official U.S. Policy on a wide range of international issues. The Office of the Legal Advisor at the U.S. State Department maintains its own Web Site http://www.state.gov/s/l/ with access to Treaties in Force, Private International Law, International Claims and Investment Disputes and the Digest of International Law.