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Legal skills - International law research

This guide is designed to help you determine the appropriate sources of international law and locate them.

This video was created by the University of Tasmania Library, 2017.

What is International Law?

International Law is a general term that is often used to describe public international law, private international law and comparative law. 

  • Public international law is the body of law governing the relations between nations, international organisations and sometimes individuals. 
  • Private international law, also known as "conflict of laws", relates to relations across different legal jurisdictions between individuals, and sometimes also companies, corporations and other legal entities.
  • Comparative Law is the study of the relationship between legal systems or between rules of more than one system, their differences and similarities.

This guide will assist you to identify and locate appropriate resources to assist your international law research. 

 

What is Public International Law?

Public international law is the body of law governing the relations between nations, international organisations and sometimes individuals.

 

What is Private International Law?

Private international law, also known as “conflict of laws”, relates to relations across different legal jurisdictions between individuals, and sometimes also companies, corporations and other legal entities.

 

What is Comparative Law?

Comparative Law is the study of the relationship between legal systems or between rules of more than one system, their differences and similarities.

 

What are the sources of Public International Law?

The classic list of sources of public international law are stated in Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice, they include:

  1. international conventions; 
  2. international custom; 
  3. the general principles of law; and
  4. judicial decisions and the teachings of the most highly qualified publicists of the various nations.

The prevailing view is that this list outlines a hierarchy of importance; that is, treaties will generally be weightier than customary international law, while customary international law will be more significant than “general principles
of law,” and so on.

 

The International Court of Justice is not bound by precedent (see Article 59 of the ICJ Statute). However, its own decisions and the decisions of other courts and arbitral tribunals may be used by the Court as persuasive authority. 

 

For more information watch the videos "Sources of International Law" in this Subject Guide.

 

Quicklinks

Quicklinks

Charter of the United Nations 

ESCR-Net Caselaw Database [Economic, Social & Cultural Rights] 

The Hague Justice Portal 

News and resources relating to international courts, tribunals and organizations. Includes a database of domestic case law on international crimes.

International Law Commission 

Statute of the International Court of Justice 

World Court Digest 

Summaries of ICJ decisions arranged by subject (1986-2000) available from Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law.

 

Need help?

Need help?

 

If you require assistance with legal research please contact the Law Library on: 

  • +61 3 6226 2063

  • Law.Reference@utas.edu.au

or come in during our regular opening hours.

The Law Library is located at the lower end of the Sandy Bay campus in the Law Building.