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Is International Law Really Law?

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Submitted By amirullah
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‘Is International Law really Law’? (Arend 1999)
Discuss with regard to the frequency of breaches of international law, the enforcement of international law and the difficulties in ascertaining international law.


International law is ‘the body of law composed of principles and rules of conduct which states feel bound to observe and do commonly observe in their relations with each other’. However, it is constantly being questioned whether international law really can be considered law at all. The uncertainty as to its validity can be explained by the arguably frequent breaches that occur as well as the difficulties in ascertaining its content and ensuring its effective enforcement. As such, the validity of international law as a real legal order will be evaluated by examining the following.

(a) The sources of international law (b) The enforcement of international law (c) The frequency of breaches within international law

(a) The sources of international law

The substantive content of international law can be ascertained by reference to a number of different sources. Article 38(1) of the Statute of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) recognises that the Court when deciding on disputes of international law can apply the following:

a. International conventions establishing rules expressly recognized by the contesting states; b. International custom as evidence of a general practice accepted as law; c. The general principles of law recognized by civilized nations; d. Judicial decisions and teachings of the most highly qualified publicists of the various nations, as subsidiary means for the determination of rules of law.

As a matter of general consensus, this serves as a formal enumeration of the sources of international law. Nevertheless, there are still a number of difficulties with ascertaining its...

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