Customary International Law

Introduction

Customary International Law - Research Guide International Law

According to Article 38 of its Statute, the International Court of Justice ‘whose function is to decide in accordance with international law such disputes as are submitted to it,’ has to apply, inter alia, ‘international custom.’ This source of public international law is described, in the same Article, as ‘evidence of a general practice accepted as law.’ This description of international custom, even though it has been criticized for its exact formulation, at least makes clear that international custom generally refers to a description State practice, but only such practice as is accepted by the States themselves as legally required. Once a certain practice is understood to be customary law, States are obliged to act as the rule of customary international law prescribes. International customary law is probably the most disputed and discussed source of international law. For example, it is not clear when a particular State practice becomes a legally binding State practice. It is also unclear how one can identify a rule of international custom, or how one can prove its existence.

This Research Guide is intended as a starting point for research on Customary International Law. It provides the basic legal materials available in the Peace Palace Library, both in print and electronic format. Handbooks, leading articles, bibliographies, periodicals, serial publications and documents of interest are presented in the Selective Bibliography section. Links to the PPL Catalogue are inserted. The Library’s classification index code 30. Sources and subject heading (keyword) Customary International Law are instrumental for searching through the Catalogue. Special attention is given to our subscriptions on databases, e-journals, e-books and other electronic resources. Finally, this Research Guide features links to relevant websites and other online resources of particular interest.

Bibliography

Reference works

Books

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  • Jung, H.-W., Rechtserkenntnis und Rechtsfortbildung im Völkergewohnheitsrecht: das Verhältnis zwischen Methodik und Rechtsquellenlehre, Göttingen, V&R Unipress, 2012.

    Jung, H.-W., Rechtserkenntnis und Rechtsfortbildung im Völkergewohnheitsrecht: das Verhältnis zwischen Methodik und Rechtsquellenlehre, Göttingen, V&R Unipress, 2012.

    Die Nürnberger Prozesse hatten nicht nur großen gesellschaftspolitischen Einfluss. Mit ihnen vollzieht sich sowohl national als auch international ein Bewusstseinswandel, der die Funktion des Völkerrechts neu definiert. Das Völkerrecht wird zunehmend als eine Wertordnung verstanden, die immer stärker auf die Deduktion als Mittel der Rechtsfindung zurückgreift. Anwendungsbeispiele der syllogistischen Rechtserkenntnis findet man aktuell im Kriegsvölkerrecht, im Immunitätsrecht und im internationalen Strafrecht, wo die dynamische Rechtsfindung erheblich von dem gesteigerten Menschenrechtsbewusstsein profitiert. Unsicherheit besteht jedoch bei der Entwicklung der nötigen methodischen Maßstäbe, weil die rechtsmethodische Seite des Konsensgrundsatzes bisher nicht im Vordergrund der Diskussion stand. Diese Arbeit beschäftigt sich mit den zentralen Fragen der modernen Rechtsquellenlehre und lotet anhand gewichtiger Entscheidungen das Verhältnis zwischen Rechtsmethode und Rechtsquellenlehre aus.

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  • Ruys, T., 'Armed Attack' and Article 51 of the UN Charter: Evolutions in Customary Law and Practice, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2010.

    Ruys, T., 'Armed Attack' and Article 51 of the UN Charter: Evolutions in Customary Law and Practice, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2010.

    This 2010 book examines to what extent the right of self-defence, as laid down in Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, permits States to launch military operations against other States. In particular, it focuses on the occurrence of an ‘armed attack’ – the crucial trigger for the activation of this right. In light of the developments since 9/11, the author analyses relevant physical and verbal customary practice, ranging from the 1974 Definition of Aggression to recent incidents such as the 2001 US intervention in Afghanistan and the 2006 Israeli intervention in Lebanon. The notion of ‘armed attack’ is examined from a threefold perspective. What acts can be regarded as an ‘armed attack’? When can an ‘armed attack’ be considered to take place? And from whom must an ‘armed attack’ emanate? By way of conclusion, the different findings are brought together in a draft ‘Definition of Armed Attack’.

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  • Quince, C., The Persistent Objector and Customary International Law, Denver, CO, Outskirts Press, 2010.

    Quince, C., The Persistent Objector and Customary International Law, Denver, CO, Outskirts Press, 2010.

    Central to the modern legal framework are the notions of customary international law and the persistent objector doctrine. But much debate exists over these ambiguous and elusive concepts-debate that has the potential to affect everything from war-crimes trials to international commerce. Now, legal expert Charles Quince provides an enlightening, in-depth, and balanced look at the history and problems of these specific areas of international law, and suggests important solutions for minimizing misinterpretation.

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  • Schlütter, B., Developments in Customary International Law: Theory and the Practice of the International Court of Justice and the International 'Ad hoc' Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and Yugoslavia, Leiden, Nijhoff, 2010.

    Schlütter, B., Developments in Customary International Law: Theory and the Practice of the International Court of Justice and the International 'Ad hoc' Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and Yugoslavia, Leiden, Nijhoff, 2010.
    Customary international law is the most important source of international criminal law. Fifty years after the Nuremberg trials, many convictions imposed by the tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda are still based on customary international law alone. The International Criminal Court, by contrast, has not yet had much opportunity to give more guidance on this matter. Hence, it is worthwhile to provide an overview of the current status of custom by analysing the ad hoc tribunal’s case law on this point. Including a comprehensive synopsis of current literature and a contrast of the  ad hoc tribunal’s case law with the jurisprudence of the International Court of Justice, this book offers an inclusive insight into the source’s past and future.
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  • Lepard, B.D., Customary International Law: A New Theory with Practical Applications, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2010.

    Lepard, B.D., Customary International Law: A New Theory with Practical Applications, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2010.

    Customary international law, although long recognized as a primary source of international law, remains replete with enigmas, both conceptual and practical. These include how to determine the existence of opinio juris, the function of the state practice requirement, the definition of jus cogens customary norms, and the relationship between customary international law and ethics. In part because of these enigmas, the subject has generated a wide-ranging literature. However, no recent book-length work has attempted to articulate a comprehensive theory of customary international law that can effectively resolve these questions. This book sets out to accomplish this goal. Its approach is unique in a number of ways. For example, it is multidisciplinary and draws insights from fields such as legal theory, philosophy, political science, and game theory. In addition, it is anchored in a sophisticated ethical framework and explores at length the interconnections between customary international law and ethics.

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  • Wolfke, K., Custom in Present International Law, Dordrecht, Nijhoff, 1993.

    Wolfke, K., Custom in Present International Law, Dordrecht, Nijhoff, 1993.

    The main points discussed in the book include the requirements and the mechanism of international law formation, kinds of international customary rules, relation of customary rules to other kinds of rules of international law, the ascertaining of customary international law, and the basis of its binding force. This edition has been updated by considering the most representative practice and literature of the last 30 years. In this connection, some problems are more widely discussed than in the previous edition, e.g. the custom-generating effect of treaties and international organizations. The book is based on the principal idea that customary international law, being the most direct outcome of the international reality, should be interpreted primarily in the light of this reality. This work should be of interest to students and teachers of law and political science and scholars and practitioners concerned with international legal problems.

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Database

Blogs

  • Conference about ICJ's judgment in the case between Nicaragua and the USA

    In 1986, the International Court of Justice issued its judgment on the merits in a dispute between Nicaragua and the United States of America. Twenty-five years later, members of the legal teams of both Nicaragua and the United States faced each other once again in the Peace Palace.

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