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International Law

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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 Charter.

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 consideration of proper conservation of the fishery resources for the benefit of all concerned.

Some cases in which sanctions are threatened, however, see no actual implementation. The United States, for example, did not impose measures on those Latin American states that nationalized privately owned American property, despite legislation that authorizes the President to discontinue aid in the absence of adequate compensation.

Enforcement measures are not the sole means of UN sanction. Skeptics of the coercive theory of international law note that forceful sanctions through the United Nations are limited to situations involving threats to the peace, breaches of peace, and acts of aggressiion. In all other instances of noncompliance of international law, the charter's own general provisions outlawing the threat or use of force actually prevent forceful sanction. Those same skeptics regard this as an appropriate paradox in a decentralized state system of international politics. Nonetheless, other means of collective sanction through the UN involve diplomatic intervention and economic sanctions.

In 1967 the Security Council decided to isolate Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) for its policy of racial separation following its unilateral declaration of independence from Britain. As in other cases of economic sanctions, effectiveness in the Rhodesian situation was limited by the problems of achieving universal participation, and the resistance of national elites to external coercion. With respect to universal participation, even states usually sympathetic to Britain's policy demonstrated



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