International law, which is also called law of nations or public international law, is a body of legal treaties, standards, norms and rules that can bind sovereign states when they enter into agreements. Jeremy Bentham, an English philosopher coined the term. International laws are binding and should benefit the citizens of each country. These laws are meant to advance trade, justice, peace and common interests.
International laws are enforceable to governments, citizens and other persons living in each country. Each state decides how to implement and follow these laws and maintain their agreements with other nations they have agreements with.
The laws can involve human rights, prosecution for international crimes, treatment of refugees, war prevention, trade between nations and arms controls and agreements. International laws are concerned about nations claiming new territories, fair treatment of prisoners, environment preservation and regulating common spaces such as outer space and water. They can also involve agreements on when a country can use force against another.
Complexities of international law
Several issues affect international laws. One of them is sovereignty issue.
What does this mean?
Sovereignty is the thought that each state is supreme in its own right and that it cannot be subjected to the rules of any other governing body or country. This means that a country cannot tell another one what it is supposed to do. The concept of state sovereignty only came into being in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Enforcement of international laws is tricky and challenging as well. Due to the idea of sovereignty, international law may only be effective based on the participation of a country in creating and following the international treaties and laws they concurred with previously. Some states may even join in an international agreement only to make other participating countries happy.
In some cases, countries say they are following the agreement. However, they either blatantly show that they have no intention of following the international agreements while others try to circumvent the rules.
Based on modern sovereignty concepts, several politicians, philosophers and international leaders engage in a never-ending debate regarding the enforceability and authority of international laws.
Where do international laws come from?
The general principles of law, customs and treaties are the sources of international laws. Treaties are written agreements entered into voluntarily by participating countries.
Customs are practices that are commonly recognized between nations, which are consistent. It is expected that the countries function with the knowledge that the custom is legally binding and required. Condoning or prohibiting a state from using slavery or genocide is an example of customary law. In general terms, if a nation does not raise any objection to a customary law, it signifies that the law is applicable to that country.
Principles of law are those basic rules of law that evolve over time, which consist of the comprehension of how the law works today according to the rulings done in the past. When making a decision, the international courts can refer to previous judicial opinions to identify and interpret international laws.
International law covers private international law and public international law. The private international law pertains to controversies arising among private entities (corporations or individuals) that have vital relationships with several countries.
When controversies arise between countries, they fall under public international law. This encompasses various laws, such as humanitarian law, human rights law, environmental law, diplomatic law, economic law, laws of the sea and international behavior standards. Some of public international law's principles are written in several treaties. Those that are not written are referred to as customary laws.
Purposes of international tribunals
International tribunals are there to hear and resolve international law violations and disputes. Several international tribunals are located in different parts of the world. At The Hague, the notable permanent international tribunals are the International Criminal Court (ICC), the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The United Nations Security Council is also an international court.
The authority of these international courts and tribunals vary. Some are permanent while others are set up by member states for a limited time in order to settle particular conflicts or issues. International courts may be set up to adjudicate specific issues while others are established to hear all types of issues.
One good example is the International Criminal Court or ICC. It was established in 2002. It operates as a forum for the prosecution of crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes. The ICC hears cases brought up by countries that do not want to pursue the cases domestically. It also handles cases referred by the United Nations Security Council.
The court procedures at the ICC mix civil and criminal law. The accused enjoys many of the rights that an accused person in a particular country is given. They have the right to be assisted by counsel and a right to a trial. The accused is likewise presumed innocent until his guilt is proven beyond reasonable doubt, just like in regular criminal courts.
ICC's main purpose it to prosecute a country's national leaders who are accused of serious human rights violations. While it can enforce prison time on persons found guilty, it cannot sentence anyone to receive the death penalty. The ICC has over 100 member countries, except for Russia, Israel and the United States.
International law practice
International lawyers act as their countries' representatives. They are highly skilled as negotiators, speakers and writers. An international lawyer represents his country's elected officials, helping them to understand the options, duties and rights of their county. The international lawyer helps his government officials put in writing their plans and ideas.
International lawyers may also work for private charities. They can represent detained persons or individuals who are wrongfully treated in another country. They can also choose to raise awareness about human rights abuses.
Should you become an international lawyer?
If you want to become an international lawyer, bear in mind that your work will have an impact not only in your country but worldwide. An international lawyer helps to create and enforce agreements and treaties that can be of tremendous help to participating countries. They can assist in increasing and improving trade relations among nations.
International lawyers can play a big role in preventing wars and end or prevent slavery.
If you want challenges, international law may suit you. But you should be a lawyer who is precise, as the international laws should be interpreted according to their plain meaning, as stated in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties of 1969. Drafting of agreements should be done carefully, taking into consideration that words have different meanings in other languages.
As an international lawyer, you should be good in international diplomacy as different cultures react differently to gestures, speech and body movements. You have to keep in mind that being an international lawyer means that you are concerned about human rights, peace and international harmony. International law is a rewarding career if you have the ambition and the right skills to handle all its challenges.
Duties of an international lawyer
Being an international lawyer seems to be a glamorous and prestigious job. But that is far from the truth. There are too many responsibilities to undertake. Most of the time you will be doing research on the differences in the national laws of various countries.
Often, an international lawyer will be spending time trying to find how local laws can apply to foreign individuals and international matters. In some cases, you have to negotiate contracts that should be valid in several countries. It all sounds very interesting but it sure involves plenty of work and deep knowledge of various legal structures.
You should always be armed with facts and precise information because it is your duty to counsel, advise and represent government agencies, organizations or individuals. You have to find specific information regarding the legal rights of the entity or entities you represent so you can secure the best outcomes for each case.
You can choose to specialize as well. So you have the option to focus on intellectual property law, securities law or taxation.
Traveling is included in your lists of tasks but it could be more tiring than rewarding because you will be involved in several meetings than in sightseeing. You have to be ready for unpredictable schedules as international disagreements can happen anytime.
As an international lawyer, it helps to learn several languages as you will be dealing with several countries speaking different languages.
The practice of international law may be the highlight of your career as a lawyer. You have to keep in mind that cases move slowly through the international court, so it could take a few years for a case to be resolved. Thus, you have to enjoy handling lengthy cases that involve detailed work.
Keeping legal translations appropriate and accurate
Just like how the legal system, whether it is local or international, is highly complex, legal translations are likewise intricate and complex. Thus, you need to work with translators who understand your business and have experience in the field. They are called subject matter experts. They are knowledgeable in the different branches of law and understand the specific terminology. Whenever you require legal translation services, trust the native speaking subject matter experts of Day Translations, Inc. Our translators live in-country, ensuring their deep knowledge of their language and culture. We guarantee that you will get properly formatted and highly accurate legal translations that meet your requirements. Our translators are available around-the-clock, as we are open 24/7, throughout the year. So, do not worry about deadlines. Just give us a call at 1-800-969-6853 or send us an email at Contact us.
Image Copyright: Roman Yanushevsky / 123RF Stock Photo