Subjects of International Law


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Subjects of International Law can be described as those persons or entities who possess international personality. Throughout the 19th century, only States qualified as subjects of international law. After, the Second World War, more and more new actors emerged in the international legal arena such as the intergovernmental organizations created by States, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) created by individuals, multinationals and even natural persons (i.e. individuals). These can now be considered as having to a large or sometimes limited extend the capacity to become international persons.

This Research Guide is intended as a starting point for research on Subjects of 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 subject heading (keyword) Subjects of International Law is 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.


Reference works


Leading articles

New titles

1. La posición del individuo en el derecho internacional
La posici√≥n del individuo en el derecho internacional : del nacimiento de la persona natural a la vida jur√≠dica internacional / Lina M. C√©spedes-B√°ez. - [Bogot√°] : Universidad de los Andes, Facultad de Derecho. - Page 179-206 In: Derecho internacional : poder y l√≠mites del derecho en la sociedad global / Ren√© Urue√Īa (compilador), ISBN 9789587740646: (2015), Page 179-206. - 2015
Keywords: Public international law, Individuals, Subjects of international law, Human rights,

2. Die UNO, das Völkerrecht und die Zukunft Palästinas
Die UNO, das Völkerrecht und die Zukunft Palästinas / Norman Paech. - Potsdam : WeltTrends. - Page 125-136 In: Die UNO und das Völkerrecht in den internationalen Beziehungen der Gegenwart / Erhard Crome (Hrsg.), ISBN 9783941880665: (2012), Page 125-136. - 2012
Keywords: Palestine, Israel, United Nations, Arab-Israeli conflict, Formation of states, Public international law,

Librarian's choice

  • Saganek, P., Unilateral Acts of States in Public International Law, Leiden, Brill Nijhoff, 2016.


    In Unilateral Acts of States in Public International Law PrzemysŇāaw Saganek discusses one of the most important sources of States‚Äô obligations in international law.
    He analyzes in a critical way the classical catalogue of unilateral acts comprising: promise, waiver, recognition and protest. He convincingly proves that this list is misleading as it oversees several important acts of States. On the other hand, several classical acts do not necessarily give rise to legal effects or are not necessarily unilateral. The author undertakes a thorough analysis of several types of acts, showing their similarities and dissimilarities. He concludes that the group category of ‚Äėunilateral acts‚Äô covers such diverse elements that they could be hardly codified in a single set of rules.

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  • Palaco Caballero, F. de M., La Cour Internationale de Justice et la Protection de l'Individu, Gen√®ve, Universit√© de Gen√®ve, Facult√© de Droit, Paris, LGDJ-Lextenso √Čditions, 2015.


    La jurisprudence de la Cour internationale de justice en mati√®re de protection de l'individu tend √† poser les bases d'une r√©flexion d'ampleur ayant pris forme apr√®s la Seconde guerre mondiale. Ce mouvement n√© de l'esprit des droits de l'Homme d'apr√®s-guerre semble aujourd'hui vouloir irradier l'ensemble du droit international moderne au point de conduire √† une refonte de ses r√®gles traditionnelles. S'affranchissant de la conception classique du droit international o√Ļ l'individu est tributaire de la volont√© des √Čtats, la Cour, organe judiciaire principal des Nations Unies, va reconna√ģtre de mani√®re progressive l'individu en tant que destinataire effectif de droits internationaux. Toutefois, cette volont√© d'ouverture marqu√©e par la cons√©cration d'un corps de normes et principes applicable en toutes circonstances reste tiraill√©e entre la protection effective des droits fondamentaux de l'individu et le respect de la volont√© souveraine des √Čtats parties.

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  • Noortmann, M., A. Reinisch and C. Ryngaert (eds.), Non-state Actors in International Law, Oxford, USA, Hart Publishing, 2015.


    The role and position of non-state actors in international law is the subject of a long-standing and intensive scholarly debate. This handbook explores the participation of this new category of actors in an international legal system that has historically been dominated by states. It explores the most important issues, actors and theoretical approaches with respect to these new participants in international law. It provides the reader with a comprehensive and state-of-the-art overview of the most important legal and political developments and perspectives.¬†Relevant non-state actors discussed in this volume include, in particular, international governmental organisations, international non-governmental organisations, multinational companies, investors and armed opposition groups. Their legal position is considered in relation to specific issue-areas, such as humanitarian law, human rights, the use of force and international responsibility. The main legal theories on non-state actors‚Äô position in international law ‚Äď neo-positivism, the policy-oriented approach and transnational law ‚Äď are covered at the beginning of the publication, and the essential political science perspectives ‚Äď on non-state actors‚Äô role in international politics and globalisation, as well as their soft power ‚Äď are presented at the end.

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  • Institut des Hautes Etudes Internationales (eds.), Les Sujets, Grandes Pages du Droit International, Volume 1, Paris, Editions A. Pedone, 2015.

    497 E 25

    Avec cette nouvelle collection consacr√©e aux Grandes¬† pages du droit international, l‚ÄôInstitut des hautes √©tudes internationales¬† a choisi d‚Äôentreprendre l‚Äô√©tude du pass√© de la doctrine¬† internationaliste, pour y partir √† la¬† recherche des pages qui permettraient de comprendre mieux le pr√©sent, mieux le¬† penser et, id√©alement, mieux nommer les choses. Il s‚Äôest repr√©sent√© cette¬† doctrine comme un vaste champ, laissant √† chacun de ses membres le soin d‚Äôy¬†cueillir des fleurs √©parses, selon son propre choix et ses affinit√©s¬† personnelles. Dans la composition de ce premier petit bouquet¬† consacr√© aux sujets du droit international, on ne cherchera d‚Äôautre crit√®re que¬† le go√Ľt de l‚ÄôInstitut et celui de ses doctorants, docteurs et professeurs ayant¬† con√ßu collectivement la journ√©e d‚Äô√©tudes dont cet ouvrage est issu. Le lecteur¬†y retrouvera, ou y d√©couvrira, l‚Äô√©tonnante diversit√© doctrinale qui fait la¬†richesse, et la difficult√©, du droit international.

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  • Summers, J., Peoples and International Law, Leiden, Brill Nijhoff, 2014.

    peoples and international law

    Peoples and International Law is a detailed survey of the law of self-determination with a focus on the concept of nations and peoples. It engages with different aspects of this law with particular emphasis on the drafting and implementation of international instruments. The second edition includes new coverage of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the African and Arab charters. It considers recent practice by the Human Rights Committee, Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights dealing with the emerging political, economic and environmental aspects of the right. The book looks at the interaction of international law, nationalism and liberalism in theories of nationhood and self-determination, as well as, the historical development of the right and the decisions of international bodies. Lastly, it examines practice in this area, including new developments in remedial independence and international territorial administration.

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  • Kettemann, M.C., The Future of Individuals in International Law: Lessons From International Internet Law, The Hague, Eleven International Publishing, 2013.


    The state-centric international order is in flux and the role of the individual as an actor in international law is growing. Yet in most international law regimes, states continue to interposition themselves between individuals and international law. Against the background of humanization which is shown to permeate all international legal regimes, this book sketches the future of individuals in international law. From the normative success of International Internet Law as the most innovative post-interposition regime this book draws lessons for the optimal design of (existing and emerging) legal frameworks. Describing in detail the characteristics of a post-interposition regime, including a commitment to multistakeholderism, non-traditional normative instruments and system-wide disintermediation, this book demonstrates why the future of individuals in international law looks bright.

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  • Is Sudan set for a divorce?

    Sudan has a history of protracted conflict between the predominately Muslim north and the largely Christian south. On 9-15 January 2011, the citizens of Southern Sudan took part in a referendum to determine if they wish to become an independent state. Although South Sudan has been an autonomous region since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) […]

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  • The Influence of NGOs on International Law

    From a traditional point of view, International Public Law has been understood as a set of rules produced by states in order to regulate relations between them. Since the end of the Cold War, the role of NGOs in international law is growing in importance and their activities are reaching the remotest parts of the world. In this blog, I will briefly discuss how NGOs have transformed international law as well as how they continue to contribute to the development of international law.

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See also

More Research guides on Public International Law

PPL keywords