International law is the branch of law that deals with defining and regulating relations between States and the use of common goods worldwide such as the environment or international waters.
International law has as its main objective that relations between States be harmonious, peaceful and collaborative. It is made up of a set of legal norms, treaties and conventions that regulate how States and other international agents must behave.
Elements of international law
The main elements are:
- International treaties, whether in the form of covenants, agreements, declarations, notes, etc.
- International conventions
- International custom that is accepted as a widespread practice
- General principles of law recognized by States
- Court decisions and doctrines (which would help determine the application of the rules)
Issues covered by international law
Among the topics addressed are:
- Human rights
- Nuclear and other weapons disarmament
- International crime
- Nationality Issues
- I treat the prisoners
- Use of force
- Conduct during periods of war
- Use and protection of international Common Goods such as the environment, international waters, outer space, world communications and international trade.
Origin and evolution of International Law
The origin of International Law comes hand in hand with the rise of states. Among the oldest sources of International Law we can find a treaty between Mesopotamia and Umma around 3100 BC. This treaty regulated borders and their inviolability. But this is not the only example, in ancient times we can find several international treaties between two or more states that usually focused on border issues, peace agreements and treatment of foreigners. However, at that time there was no orderly legal system of these treaties or conventions.
Background of the modern international law system
One of the antecedents of the system of modern International Law was the treaty of Westphalia of 1648, signed by the majority of the European powers in the war of the 30s. This treaty established some of the fundamental pillars of the current legal framework.
Other relevant treaties such as the 1853 Paris Declaration on war at sea should also be mentioned; the Geneva Convention of 1864 on the treatment of military wounded in times of war and the Hague declarations of 1899 and 1907 to ensure the resolution of conflicts through peaceful means.
The first and second world wars imposed a terrible pause on the development of International Law. At the beginning of 1945 and after the end of the war, the States returned to the work of creating a legal framework that would help preserve peace, security and promote international cooperation.
The United Nations focused on the work of coding, ordering and developing a system that could maintain respect for the obligations emanating from international treaties. Among the UN agencies that have been created to enforce the international legal system are: the International Court of Justice, the Security Council and the General Assembly.