International Law

International law is the body of legal rules that apply between sovereign
states and such other entities as have been granted international
personality (status acknowledged by the international community). The
rules of international law are of a normative character, that is, they
prescribe towards conduct, and are potentially designed for authoritative
interpretation by an international judicial authority and by being capable
of enforcement by the application of external sanctions. The International
Court of Justice is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations,
which succeeded the Permanent Court of International Justice after World
War II. Article 92 of the charter of the United Nations states:
The International Court of justice shall be the principal judicial
organ of the United nations. It shall function in accordance with
the annexed Statute, which is based upon the Statute of the Permanent
court of International Justice and forms an integral part of the present
The commands of international law must be those that the states
impose upon themselves, as states must give consent to the commands that
they will follow. It is a direct expression of raison d\'etat, the
"interests of the state", and aims to serve the state, as well as protect
the state by giving its rights and duties. This is done through treaties
and other consensual engagements which are legally binding.
The case-law of the ICJ is an important aspect of the UN\'s
contribution to the development of international law. It\'s judgements and
advisory opinions permeates into the international legal community not only
through its decisions as such but through the wider implications of its
methodology and reasoning.
The successful resolution of the border dispute between Burkina
Faso and Mali in the 1986 Frontier Dispute case illustrates the utility of
judicial decision as a means of settlement in territorial disputes. The
case was submitted to a Chamber of the ICJ pursuant to a special agreement
concluded by the parties in 1983. In December 1985, while written
submissions were being prepared, hostilities broke out in the disputed
area. A cease-fire was agreed, and the Chamber directed the continued
observance of the cease-fire, the withdrawal of troops within twenty days,
and the avoidance of actions tending to aggravate the dispute or prejudice
its eventual resolution. Both Presidents publicly welcomed the judgement
and indicated their intention to comply with it.
In the Fisheries Jurisdiction case (United Kingdom v. Iceland ,
1974) the ICJ contributed to the firm establishment in law of the idea that
mankind needs to conserve the living resources of the sea and must respect
these resources. The Court observed:
It is one of the advances in maritime international law, resulting
from the intensification of fishing, that the former laissez-faire
treatment ofthe living resources of the sea in the high seas has been
replaced by a recognition of a duty to have due regard of the rights of
other States and the needs of conservation for the benefit of all.
Consequently, both parties have the obligation to keep inder review the
fishery resources in the disputed waters and to examine together, in the
light of scientific and other available information, the measures
required for the conservation and development, and equitable exploitation,
of these resources, taking into account any international agreement in
force between them, such as the North-East Atlantic Fisheries
Convention of 24 January 1959, as well as such other agreements as
may be reached in the matter in the course of further negotiation.
The Court also held that the concept of preferential rights in
fisheries is not static.
This is not to say that the preferential rights of a coastal State
in a special situation are a static concept, in the sense that the
degree of the coastal State\'s preference is to be considered as for
ever at some given moment. On the contrary, the preferential rights are
a function of the exceptional dependence of such a coastal State on the
fisheries in adjacent waters and may, therefore, vary as the extent of
that dependence changes.
The Court\'s judgement on this case contributes to the development of the
law of the sea by recognizing the concept of the preferential rights of a
coastal state in the fisheries of the adjacent waters, particularly if that
state is in a special situation with its population dependent on those
fisheries. Moreover, the Court proceeds further to recognise that the law
pertaining to fisheries must accept the primacy of the requirement of
conservation based on scientific data. The exercise of preferential rights
of the coastal state, as well as the hisoric rights of other states
dependent on the same fishing grounds, have to be subject to the overriding