Definition Nature Importance

Public International Law
• Public international law governs the relationships between national governments and intergovernmental organizations.
• It regulates across national boundaries.
• Term “international law” coined by Jeremy Bentham in 1789.
• The sources of international:
– international conventions (treaties);
– customary law (the general practice of states and intergovernmental institutions that are legally binding and generally recognized by all states);
– general principles of law; and
– jurisprudence and the teachings of eminent international law scholars,
as a subsidiary means for the determination of rules of law sometimes called the “law of nations” or “law of nature
and nations” or ”jus gentium” or “jus gentium publicum” or ”jus inter gentes” or “foreign-relations law” or ”interstate law” or ”law between states”
• But like all living laws, international law is also not static –developed and restructured in new situations.

Philip C. Jessup, A Modern Law of Nations (1949)
– [I]nternational law must be defined as law applicable to states in their mutual relations and to individuals in their relations with states.
– Furthermore, International law may also, under this hypothesis, be applicable to certain interrelationships of individuals themselves, where such interrelationships involve matters of international concern.”

• Professor Oppenheim
– The body of rules which are legally binding on States in their intercourse with each other. These rules are primarily those which govern the relation of Organisations and, to some extant, also individuals may be subjects of rights conferred and duties imposed by International law
• Justin Brierly
– may be defined as the body of rules and principles of action which are binding upon civilized States in their relations with one another.

J.G. Starke
– His definition goes beyond traditional definition may be defined as that body of law which states feel themselves bound to observe, and therefore, do commonly observe in their relations with each other
Also includes :
• Rules for functioning of international institutions or organisations, their relations with each other, and their relations with states and individuals; and certain rules of law relating to individuals and non-state entities so far as the rights or duties of such individuals andnon-state entities are the concern of the international community.

PCIJ in the Case of the S.S. ‘‘Lotus’’:
– International law governs relations between independent States.
– The rules of law binding upon States therefore emanate from their own free will as expressed in conventions or by usages generally accepted as expressing principles of law and established inorder to regulate the relations between these coexisting independent communities or with a view to the achievement of common aims.



Thus, PIL is :
• Evolutionary process – difficult to define
• Body of Rules/principles binding on States in their relations
• Binding nature
• Sometimes individuals – in relation to states
– Previously individuals were not subject
• Different opinion amongst jurist in regard to the superiority of IL

Nature of International Law

  1. International law as the law
  2. Origin in naturalism
  3. Positivism and present context
  4. The state and sovereignty
  5. The institutional structure
  6. Expansion of International law (subjects and area)