Public International Law


Public International Law is perhaps best described as an authoritative language, used by States, international organizations, individuals and other participants in the international legal order to interact with each other. International law is a value-oriented jurisprudence used by policymakers and other members of the international community (governments, diplomats, international judges and arbitrators, elements of the “UN family,” etc.) to make difficult choices based on shared values. The traditional definition of international law has broadened in scope to include additional topics or branches of international law. For detailed research guidance on individual topics of public international law, see other research guides on special topics Air (and space) law, Cultural heritage, Environment, Food, Health, Labour, Law of the Sea, Sport, Territory and Water.

This Research Guide is intended as a starting point for research on Public 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 systematic classification → Public International Law and subject heading (keyword) Public 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.


Reference works


Leading articles


Periodicals, serial publications


New titles

Recueil des cours = Collected courses of The Hague Academy of International Law / Académie de droit international de La Haye. - Leiden ; Boston : Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2015. - 484 pages. : portrait. ; 24 cm With bibliographical references. - 2015

2. Okupacja wojenna w świetle prawa mie̜dzynarodowego
Okupacja wojenna w świetle prawa mie̜dzynarodowego : natura, skutki, nowe tendencje = Belligerent Occupation Under International Law : Legal Nature, Consequences, New Tendencies / Roman Kwiecień In: Annales Universitatis Mariae Curie-Skłodowska = ISSN 0458-4317: vol. 60, issue 1, page 65-80. - 2013
Keywords: Occupation, Sovereignty, Peacebuilding, Post-conflict reconstruction, Jus post Bellum, Political history, Public international law,

3. The Development of International Law through the Unauthorised Conduct of International Institutions
The Development of International Law through the Unauthorised Conduct of International Institutions / JD Van der Vyver In: Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal / Potchefstroomse Elektroniese Regsblad = ISSN 1727-3781: vol. 18, issue 5, page 1302-1331. - 2015
Keywords: Development of international law, International criminal tribunals, Humanitarian intervention, Terrorism, International institutions,

4. The Interplay between International Law and Labour Law in South Africa
The Interplay between International Law and Labour Law in South Africa : Piercing the Diplomatic Immunity Veil / S. B. Gericke In: Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal / Potchefstroomse Elektroniese Regsblad = ISSN 1727-3781: vol. 17, issue 6, page 2600-2634. - 2014
Keywords: South Africa, Diplomatic and consular immunities, Labour law, International law and national law,

Librarian's choice

  • Couvreur, P., The International Court of Justice and the Effectiveness of International Law, Leiden, Brill, 2017.

    The International Court of Justice and the Effectiveness of International Law, by Philippe Couvreur, Registrar of the ICJ since 2000, offers an account of the history and main achievements of the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, the only court with universal and general jurisdiction. This book discusses the hopes and aims of creating a permanent, international tribunal for settling disputes between States, and the ICJ’s role in ensuring the effectiveness of the rule of law at the international level. Taking into account the characteristics of the international legal order, this work provides a description of the main achievements brought about in this respect by the creation of the ICJ; the basis and scope of its function as a judicial institution; its relationship with other means of settling disputes and its integration in the United Nations; and finally its substantial contribution in two areas of great significance for the promotion and strengthening of peaceful relations between States, namely the settlement of land and maritime disputes and the implementation of the law of State responsibility.

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  • Chesterman, S., I. Johnstone, D.M. Malone & T.M.Franck, Law and Practice of the United Nations: Documents and Commentary, New York, NY, Oxford University Press, 2016.

    Law and Practice of the United Nations: Documents and Commentary combines primary materials with expert commentary demonstrating the interaction between law and practice in the UN organization, as well as the possibilities and limitations of multilateral institutions in general. Each chapter begins with a short introductory essay describing how the documents that ensue illustrate a set of legal, institutional, and political issues relevant to the practice of diplomacy and the development of public international law through the United Nations. Each chapter also includes questions to guide discussion of the primary materials, and a brief bibliography to facilitate further research on the subject. This second edition addresses the most challenging issues confronting the United Nations and the global community today, from terrorism to climate change, from poverty to nuclear proliferation. New features include hypothetical fact scenarios to test the understanding of concepts in each chapter. This edition contains expanded author commentary, while maintaining the focus on primary materials. Such materials enable a realistic presentation of the work of international diplomacy: the negotiation, interpretation and application of such texts are an important part of what actually takes place at the United Nations and other international organizations.

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  • Orford, A., F.Hoffmann, & M.Clark, The Oxford Handbook of the Theory of International Law, Oxford, United Kingdom, Oxford University Press, 2016.

    The Oxford Handbook of International Legal Theory provides an accessible and authoritative guide to the major thinkers, concepts, approaches, and debates that have shaped contemporary international legal theory. The Handbook features 48 original essays by leading international scholars from a wide range of traditions, nationalities, and perspectives, reflecting the richness and diversity of this dynamic field. The collection explores key questions and debates in international legal theory, offers new intellectual histories for the discipline, and provides fresh interpretations of significant historical figures, texts, and theoretical approaches. It provides a much-needed map of the field of international legal theory, and a guide to the main themes and debates that have driven theoretical work in international law. The Handbook will be an indispensable reference work for students, scholars, and practitioners seeking to gain an overview of current theoretical debates about the nature, function, foundations, and future role of international law.

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  • Kaczorowska-Ireland, A., Public International Law, London : New York, Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2015.

    The book covers all the major areas of public international law, and takes account of new developments relating to the codification of international law by the International Law Commission, State practice, and decisions of international courts and tribunals, in particular those of the International Court of Justice.

    Features new to this edition:

    • A new dedicated chapter on the law of the sea
    • Diagrammatic aides-mémoire at the end of each chapter
    • Expanded coverage of the US approach to international law via its courts and executive.

    This book is an ideal learning tool for students of law or political science and provides a clear and straight-forward overview for anyone with an interest in the subject.

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  • Ziegler, A.R., Introduction au Droit International Public, Berne, Stämpfli Editions, 2015.

    Cet ouvrage donne un aperçu des sources et des acteurs du droit international public moderne en prenant tout particulièrement en compte la pratique des Cours et des juridictions suisses. Aussi bien les aspects classiques des rapports interétatiques que les domaines les plus importants de la coopération internationale (Protection internationale des droits de l’homme, Droit international humanitaire, Droit international de l’environnement, Droit international économique) et l’activité des Organisations internationales y sont traités.

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  • de Oliveira Mazzuoli, V., Curso de Direito Internacional Público, 9.a Edição Revista, Atualizada e Ampliada, São Paulo: Thomson Reuters, Revista dos Tribunais, 2015.

    Escrito por um dos mais respeitados internacionalistas brasileiros, este livro é o mais completo e atualizado Curso de Direito Internacional Público editado no Brasil; Didático e preciso no emprego da linguagem, tem sido adotado como livro-texto nas melhores Faculdades de Direito e Relações Internacionais do país, sendo ainda frequentemente utilizado nos países de língua portuguesa (sobretudo em Portugal); Destaque-se, também, as referências constantes que o Curso tem merecido na jurisprudência do STF e STJ, especialmente em matéria de tratados, direitos humanos, nacionalidade, extradição etc.

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  • Interview Professor Yves Daudet

    Professor Daudet officially retired as Secretary-General of The Hague Academy of International Law. A special farewell ceremony and reception were held in his honor during which the new Secretary- General, Professor Jean- Marc Thouvenin was formally introduced. Mr Daudet graciously agreed to be interviewed. Find out more how he looks back on his time at the Academy, his many highlights and accomplishments and how he will continue to stay involved in the future of the Academy.

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  • Interview Sigrid Kaag

    This month, we have the honor of interviewing Ms. Sigrid Kaag, a top Dutch diplomat who currently serves as a United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon (UNSCOL). Last month, the Dutch Carnegie Foundation awarded Sigrid Kaag the Carnegie Wateler Peace Prize. Before the ceremony took place, we took the opportunity to interview Ms. Kaag to discuss her work at the UN, in particular, the succesful UN-OPCW joint mission Ms. Kaag led to eliminate the chemical weapons programme in Syria. We also discussed the role of international law in her daily work at the UN. Here’s what she had to say.

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  • Interview: Alexia Solomou

    The best part of working in the Library is meeting community members who are working on interesting and important projects in international law. It gets even better when they’re willing to share their stories with our readers. This month, we are delighted to introduce you to Alexia Solomou, Associate Legal Officer at the International Court of Justice. Ms. Solomou is from Cyprus and has recently succeeded in setting up a Cypriot Branch of the International Law Association. She shares with us her experience of working at the ICJ and offers us great insight in what it takes to set up an ILA branch.

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  • Bibliotheek van het Vredespaleis viert 200 jaar Nederlandse Grondwet

    On Saturday 29 March, the Netherlands will celebrate the 200-year anniversary of the 1814 Constitution. During the so-called Grondwetfestival (Constitution Festival) government buildings normally off limits to the public, like the Catshuis and Trêveszaal, will open especially for this occasion. The Peace Palace Library will also participate in this event with an interactive tour – in Dutch – explaining the relationship between the Dutch Constitution and international law. [Further information in Dutch]

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  • The Hague Academy of International Law: Celebrating 90 Years of Academic Excellence

    On July 24, 1923, ten years after the opening of the Peace Palace, the Hague Academy of International Law was solemnly inaugurated in the Peace Palace ‘to teach subjects which are most important from the point of view of theory, practice, legislation and international jurisprudence, in particular from deliberations of conferences and arbitral awards’ (Art. 3 of its statute adopted in 1914).

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  • Immunities in Public and Private International Law - 9th Session of the Seminar for Advanced Studies, 13-19 January 2013

    Each year the Hague Academy of International law, one of the most renowned academic institutions in Europe, holds a seminar devoted to various aspects of public and private international law. The theme of this year’s seminar will be: ”Les immunités en droit international public et privé” (Immunities in public and private international law). This Programme of Advanced Studies will take place from 13 to 19 January 2013 at the Academy building in The Hague.

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  • When Röling Waves Advanced Towards the Shores of International Law

    Invitation to lecture about the influence of Röling’s work on international law practice and scholarship by Prof. Nico Schrijver, organized by the Peace Palace Library. The lecture takes place on Wednesday 22 June, 2011, at 17.30-19.30 (lecture starts at 18.00). The location is the Historic Reading Room of the Peace Palace Library. Entrance is free.

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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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  • In memoriam: Sir Ian Brownlie CBE QC (1932-2010)

    Sir Ian Brownlie, the second from the right on the photo, taken at the International Court of Justice when he was arguing the Nicaragua-Honduras case for Nicaragua. The great British international lawyer, Sir Ian Brownlie, died on January 3th 2010, in a car­-accident while on holiday with his family in Egypt. His name is a […]

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  • First Lady of International Law

    Tuesday last week the First Lady of International Law, Rosalyn Higgins, President of the International Court of Justice bade farewell to her colleagues at the Court in The Hague, after serving nearly fourteen years as judge and as its President.
    This event coincided with the presentation of her latest book “Themes and Theories. Selected speeches and writings in International Law” (OUP 2009). An impressive collection of her thoughts over the last forty years. Ten chapters on various aspects of international law, reflected in articles, speeches, lectures and in her work as a member of the International Court of Justice.
    Oxford University Press kindly donated this two volume set to the Peace Palace Library, completing the collection of Higgins’ publications.

    The Library hopes that Dame Higgins, having spent so many years in The Hague, the Legal Capital of the World, will continue to be inspired by its excellent possibilities for research in international law.

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  • UN Audiovisual Library of International Law

    The United Nations Office of Legal Affairs launched the Audiovisual Library of International Law. The Audiovisual Library aims to provide free, scholarly resources to students and practictioners around the world, particularly in regions where there are few resources for the study of international law.

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See also

More Research guides on Public International Law

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