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Public International Law: IALS Library Guides

An introduction to legal research in public international law

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Last updated:

Hester Swift, May 2013

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This guide was created by Hester Swift, Foreign & International Law Librarian at the IALS Library.


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Public international law governs the conduct of states and international organisations, and the relations between them. Areas of public international law include air law, diplomatic relations and the law of armed conflict.

The Statute of the International Court of Justice, article 38(1), is often used to define the sources of public international law. It lists the following sources: treaties; international custom (hence 'customary international law'); generally recognised principles of law; judicial decisions; and the teachings of publicists, that is, leading scholars. Judicial decisions and the teachings of publicists are classed as secondary sources (art. 31(1) (d)).

IALS Library has a large public international law collection, comprising several treaty series; numerous international law reports; hundreds of yearbooks and journals, print and electronic; and thousands of monographs. A large area of the second floor reading room is devoted to international law, and additional holdings are kept in the basement Reserve and Offsite Store. IALS also subscribes to many online databases with substantial international law content.

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A treaty is a written agreement between two or more states or international organisations. It does not necessarily have the word  'treaty' in its  title:  it could call itself a 'convention', 'agreement', or something else.

Treaty glossary
Some common terms are listed below; for others, see the UN Treaty Reference Guide

  • Accession:  the formal acceptance of a treaty by a state which was not one of the original signatories.
  • Depositary (or depository):  the state or international organisation responsible for keeping the original treaty instruments and for registering ratifications and other subsequent treaty actions.
  • Ratification:  means by which a state may express its definitive consent to be bound by a treaty (but note that not all treaties have to be ratified).
  • Reservation:  a unilateral statement made by a state when signing, ratifying, accepting, approving, or acceding to a treaty, aiming to exclude or to modify the legal effect of certain treaty provisions in their application to that state.
  • Signature: the official affixing of names to a treaty by the representatives of the negotiating states, expressing consent to be bound by the treaty, or provisional consent to be bound subject to ratification or other procedures.

General treaty sources

  • The United Nations Treaty Series (UNTS, 1946 - ): the leading publication for multilateral and bilateral treaties.  It is usually known as the 'UN Treaty Series', but its actual title is Treaty series: treaties and international agreements registered or filed and recorded with the Secretariat of the United Nations All treaties entered into by UN member states have to be registered with the UN and published in the UNTS. However, some treaties are missing from the series and publication of new treaties is slow; if you cannot find the treaty you are looking for in the UNTS, use a treaty index to find other sources (see below).

The entire UNTS is available free on the UN Treaty Collection website, with details of signatures, ratifications and so on. It is also in Hein Online's UN Law Collection. IALS has the bound set up to vol. 2174 (2002), including cumulative indexes; they are kept in the Offsite Store.

The international law section of the Oxford Standard for the Citation of Legal Authorities says the UNTS should be cited in preference to other treaty sources (OSCOLA 2006, Citing International Law Sources, p.25).

  • Multilateral Treaties Deposited with the Secretary General (MTDSG): this UN publication records signatures, ratifications and other treaty actions, but only covers the 530 or so treaties officially deposited with the Secretary General, a very small proportion of the treaties in the UNTS. It includes details of some treaties pre-dating the UN. MTDSG used to be an annual print publication (1949-2009, in IALS 1949 to 2006) but has been superseded by a continually-updated online version on the UN Treaty Collection website, under Status of Treaties. HeinOnline has an online version of the annual edition.
  • League of Nations Treaty Series (LNTS, 1920 -1946): contains treaties made by member states of the League of Nations from 1920 to 1945, with indexes. Its full title is Treaty series and international engagements registered with the Secretariat of the League of Nations. The LNTS is in the UN Treaty Collection and on HeinOnline. IALS has the bound LNTS volumes in its Offsite Store.
  • International Legal Materials (ASIL, 1962 - ): publishes introductory notes to important new multilateral treaties, occasionally accompanied by the text of the treaty (but now that most multilaterals are available on the internet it usually gives the URL instead). IALS has the printed ILM volumes and the series is also on Lexis®Library (all volumes), Westlaw International (via Westlaw UK, 1980 onwards) and HeinOnline (1962 to pre-current volume); these databases may be accessed via the IALS Electronic Law Library.

 Regional treaty sources 

  • Council of Europe (CoE): treaties concluded under the aegis of the Council of Europe are published in the European Treaty Series (ETS, 1949-2003); this series was renamed Council of Europe Treaty Series (CETS) from 2004. IALS holds the entire series, at classmark FOL GO1.A.20.E.1.  All CoE treaties are also on its website, together with explanatory reports and status information (details of ratifications and so on). For more information about CoE treaties, please see our Council of Europe research guide.
  • European Union (EU): the EU uses the term 'treaty' specifically for its fundamental treaties, such as the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. For other international instruments, it uses the term 'agreement', for example, the Agreement between the European Union and the Government of the Russian Federation on trade in parts and components of motor vehicles between the European Union and the Russian Federation.

Both treaties and international agreements appear in the Official Journal of the European Union (formerly ...of the European Communities), which is held at IALS. The Official Journal is available on the free EUR-Lex website; since July 2013, the online version has been the official edition (the print edition ceased publication in December 2013). EU treaties and international agreements are also to be found on the subscription databases Lexis, Westlaw and Justis (see IALS Electronic Law Library).

Status information for EU treaties and international agreements is available from the Council of the EU’s website; this database also provides the full text of each instrument. The European Commission provides a database of international agreements concluded by the EU, including summaries, citations and other information, together with links to the full text.

For more information about EU treaties and international agreements, please see our EU research guide.

  • Organization of American States (OAS): treaties concluded by the OAS appear in its Treaty Series.  All OAS treaties are available on its website, with status information.  IALS holds the print edition from 1970 to 1985 only.

 National treaty sources

 Many states publish the treaties to which they are a party in their own official series; some states also make them available on the internet. This research guide covers five jurisdictions only (see below);  sources for other jurisdictions may be available via WorldLII, or the Eagle-I web portal.


  • Australia: treaties in force for Australia are officially published in the Australian Treaty Series (ATS, 1901- ). IALS does not hold this title, but the whole series is on AustLII, with cross-references to protocols and so on (click on 'Note-Up'). Other treaty information on AustLII includes: status lists for multilateral treaties deposited with the Australian Government; Australian Treaty Action Monthly Update; and Australian Treaties Not Yet in Force (ATNIF). The website of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade provides status information for Australian treaties from 1990 onwards
  • France: the official source of French treaties is the Journal officiel de la République française (JORF). IALS does not hold the printed JORF, but it is on LexisNexis JurisClasseur from 1990 onwards (click on 'JO/BO') and free on the internet from 2004 onwards. French treaties are also available on the website of the Foreign Ministry, with status information, in the Base des Traités et Accords et de la France. This database covers both recent and historical treaties; it goes back to the sixteenth century, at least.
  • Germany: German treaties are published in part two ('Teil II') of the Bundesgesetzblatt (BGBl; formerly the Reichs-Gesetzblatt, or RGBl).The BGBl is available free on the internet from 1951 onwards. IALS has the printed RGBl from 1899 to 1945 (plus incomplete holdings of earlier volumes) and the BGBl on microfiche from 1949 to 1980.
  • United Kingdom: treaties involving the UK are published by The Stationery Office as a type of official publication called a 'command paper', in several different series. Those which are in force for the UK appear in the Treaty Series (UKTS, 1892 - ); before they come into force, bilateral treaties are published in the Country series of command papers, multilaterals in the Miscellaneous series and EC/EU treaties in the European Communities/Union series. IALS has the main UK Treaty Series from 1946 onwards (including indexes),  the whole European Communities/Union Treaty Series and selected items from the Miscellaneous series. 

The FCO website provides all UK treaties from 1892 onwards, whether in force or not. They are divided into two collections on this site: for treaties up to 1998, click on 'UK Treaties Online' and for treaties from 1999 onwards, click on Treaty Command Papers.

Status information for UK treaties is published biannually, in the FCO’s Supplementary List: Treaty Ratifications, Accessions, Withdrawals, Etc and Second Supplementary List…, which are types of command paper. The FCO website has ten years' worth of these Lists. Status information for treaties deposited with the UK Government is available from the Depositary page of the FCO site (as well as in the Supplementary Lists). Status information can also be obtained by calling the FCO Treaty Section.

UK treaties before 1892:  treaties dating from the period 1812 to 1968 appear in British and Foreign State Papers (BFSP), together with treaties concluded before 1812 which were still in force at the time BFSP was published. BFSP was compiled by the Foreign Office and published from about 1815 up to 1970s, with indexes. IALS's printed set is incomplete, but the whole series is in HeinOnline’s World Constitutions Illustrated module. For treaties that are not in BFSP, see Parry and Hopkins, An Index of British Treaties.

  • United States: international instruments concluded by the US are categorised either as 'treaties' or as 'international agreements', depending on the type of procedure used to approve them. US treaties and international agreements are first published as individual pamphlets, in the Treaties and Other International Acts Series (TIAS). They are then cumulated into United States Treaties and Other International Agreements (UST, 1950 - ). Before 1950, they were published in Statutes at Large (Stat.).

IALS has UST and Statutes at Large, but does not hold the TIAS pamphlets. Publication of UST is many years in arrears: the last issue to come out was vol. 35(6), covering treaties from 1983-84. 

Online sources of US treaties and agreements:-

Lexis Library:  the file US Treaties on Lexis has treaties and agreements from 1776 onwards

Westlaw International (via Westlaw UK, under 'Services'): USTREATIES has treaties and agreements from 1778 onwards

HeinOnline: Treaties and Agreements Library, 1776 onwards (includes TIAS).

State Department: Treaties and Other International Acts Series (TIAS) 1996 onwards;  international agreements also available separately on this site, 1982 onwards, under 'Reporting International Agreements...'.

Federal Digital System (FDsys) :  treaties from 1995 onwards, under 'Congressional Documents'.

Status information and indexes: treaties and agreements in force for the US are listed in the annual title Treaties in Force, with details of signatories, parties, the date in force, amendments and so on. The current edition is on the State Department website; both current and previous editions are on Lexis, Westlaw International and Hein Online; IALS has the print editions from 1964 onwards. See also Kavass’s Guide to the United States Treaties in Force and the United States Treaty Index, both held at IALS.   

Treaties by subject

Selected subject-based collections are listed below (for other subjects, see EISIL):-

  • Children: Van Bueren, G. (ed.), International documents on children, 2nd rev. ed. Martinus Nijhoff,1998.
  • Human rights: the University of Minnesota Human Rights Center has a library of human rights treaties on its website; see also Brownlie, I., and Goodwin-Gill, G. (ed.s), Basic documents on human rights, 5th ed., OUP, 2006.
  • Intellectual property: the WIPO website makes available all the treaties that WIPO administers.
  • Investment:  the UNCTAD website has a collection of bilateral investment treaties (also known as international investment agreements).
  • Taxation: IBFD Online, a subscription database available at IALS, has a large collection of tax treaties.

Historical treaty collections

Clive Parry's Consolidated treaty series (CTS / Consol.T.S.) is the main source of treaties from 1648 to 1920. IALS has the whole series, more than two hundred volumes. Other historical collections held at IALS, or available on the internet, include: -


  • Hertslet's commercial treaties:  treaties 1354 -1921, with indexes.
  • Martens, Recueil de traités…(treaties 1761-1808); Nouveau recueil de traités... (1808-1839); Nouveaux supplémens au Recueil de traités...(supplement to the aforementioned titles, 1761-1839); Nouveau recueil général de traités.... (1840-1841 only in IALS, but further volumes were published). These titles publish treaties in various languages, not just French. 
  • The Avalon Project, on Yale Law School's website, provides key historical treaties from the ninth century onwards.

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Treaty indexes and bibliographies

Treaty indexes and bibliographies have the classmark BS40 at IALS Library. Key titles are kept behind the Enquiry Desk for ready reference (see Catalogue), while other BS40 titles are kept in the L2 reading room.

The following are some of the most important indexes available at IALS, or on the internet:-

Global indexes

  • FLARE Index to Treaties : free resource covering about 2,000 of the most important multilateral treaties (from the seventeenth century onwards) and some bilateral treaties (1353 onwards).  Gives citations, place and date of signature; links to the full text on the internet, where available.

  • Bowman, M. and Harris, D., Multilateral treaties: index and current status. Arranged chronologically, with subject and keyword indexes. Gives citations, location, parties, signatories and status. Not updated since the mid-1990s.

  • Rohn, P., World Treaty Index, 2nd ed., 1984: covers over 44,000 bilaterals and multilaterals, 1920-1984. Includes many treaties not found in the UNTS and LNTS. Offers access by keyword, parties, date, or subject.

  • World Treaty Index online: test website provided by  the University of Michigan, based partly on the above print edition. Currently covers bilaterals only, 1945-1999 (but earlier records are being added). The full dataset, including earlier treaty records as well as data on multilaterals, may be downloaded separately: see Help page. Gives citations, date of signature, parties and subject.  Does not link to the treaties themselves.

UK indexes

  • Parry, C. and Hopkins, C., An index of British Treaties: 1101-1988, is the main source for treaties signed by the UK - and its forerunners - in this period. Covers multilaterals and bilaterals.

US indexes

  • Kavass, United States Treaty Index: covers treaties and agreements, 1776 onwards. 

  • Kavass’s Guide to the United States Treaties in Force: covers treaties and international agreements, 1776 onwards. Available in HeinOnline’s Treaties and Agreements Library 

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Travaux préparatoires

Working documents produced during the drafting of treaties are known as 'travaux préparatoires'.  They are not usually published, but for some of the more important treaties they may be available either in print publications or online. For example, the travaux for the European Convention on Human Rights have been published in eight volumes under the title Collected edition of the "travaux préparatoires" of the European Convention on Human Rights (held at IALS). The same preparatory documents have also been made available on the internet by the Library of the European Court of Human Rights.

Yale University's list of Collected Travaux Préparatoires is a good place to start your research. Provided by the Lillian Goldman Law Library at Yale, it give details of available travaux préparatoires, in print and/or on the internet. Many of the print publications listed are held at IALS.

For further information about researching travaux préparatoires, see 'À la Recherche des Travaux Préparatoires: An Approach to Researching the Drafting History of International Agreements', a useful guide on New York University’s Globalex website.

Customary international law: state practice

Customary international law develops when the general practice of states comes to be accepted as a legal obligation. For a useful introduction to the concept of state practice, see M. Wood, 'State Practice', in R. Wolfrum (ed.), The Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law (print and online versions available at IALS).

Researchers may find evidence of state practice in diplomatic correspondence, legislation, legal opinions, national and international court decisions, treaties, parliamentary debates and elsewhere. Some of these materials are not published, but others are found in yearbooks, journals and digests, in International Legal Materials, or in national collections of international law cases

Bibliographies of state practice materials
The following bibliographies list sources of state practice:

  • Sources of State Practice in International Law, edited by Ralph Gaebler and Maria Smolka-Day (Transnational Publishers, c.2002; held at IALS): covers twelve European countries, Canada and the US.
  • Public International Law: a Current Bibliography of Books and Articles, biannual series compiled by the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law (Springer, 1975 - ; held at IALS): section 1.2 covers 'Surveys of State Practice'; details of the articles and essays from this publication are available free on the Institute's website.
  • Merrills, J.G., A Current Bibliography of International Law (Butterworths, 1978; held at IALS): section 2 is 'State Practice'.

State practice in yearbooks and digests
Yearbooks and digests outline state practice in international law under systematic subject headings. They reproduce extracts from state practice materials, summarise national court decisions on international points and give details of treaty actions. Most yearbooks are national in scope, but some are regional, for example the African Yearbook of International Law and the Asian Yearbook of International LawSelected yearbooks and digests are detailed below (Australia, France, Germany, UK and US). For other parts of the world, see bibliographies, or search the CatalogueIALS has a large collection of yearbooks, including the following titles, among others:-

  • Australia: Australian Yearbook of International Law (Butterworths, 1966 -  ; vol. 1 covers 1965); has a section called 'Australian Practice in International Law', as well as summaries of Australian international law cases and details of Australian treaty actions. Printed series in IALS; parts of it are free on AustLII; it is also on HeinOnline, except latest couple of volumes.
  • France: Annuaire français de droit international  (Centre national de la recherche scientifique, 1956 - ; vol. 1 covers 1955); has a section called 'Pratique française du droit international', as well as summaries of French cases on international law. Printed series in IALS;  also on the Persée website (except for the latest volumes).
  • Germany: German Yearbook of International Law (Duncker & Humbolt, 1948 - ): originally published in German, as Jahrbuch für internationales und ausländisches offentliches Recht; has appeared in English since 1978; the 'German practice' section covers German court decisions on international law and other matters.  Printed series in IALS.
  • United Kingdom:
    • British Yearbook of International Law (1920 - ; OUP): summarises British international law cases from around 1918 onwards; has a section called 'United Kingdom Materials on International Law', which started in 1978. IALS has the entire printed BYIL;  on HeinOnline from 1920 to 1972/73 (via links on Catalogue record).
    • British Digest of International Law (Stevens, 1965-67):  systematic statement of British practice; vols. 2b and 5-8 were published, covering various topics, 1860-1914, but the work was never completed.
  • United States:
    • Digest of United States Practice in International Law (1974 - ; OUP); documents from the Digest are on the State Department website from 1989 onwards. For updates to the Digest, see the American Journal of International Law, under the heading 'Practice of the United States Relating to International Law'.
    • Murphy, Sean D., United States practice in international law (1999 - 2004, Cambridge University Press).
    • Restatement of the law, third: the foreign relations law of the United States (American Law Institute, 1987)

There are also older US digests:  see Columbia Law School's public international law research guide.

State practice in international law journals
Many international law journals cover state practice, for example: the American Journal of International Law, the Chinese Journal of International Law and the Heidelberg Journal of International Law (the practice section of the latter is on the internet, 1993-2005). For details of other journals with state practice materials, see bibliographies.

State practice by subject
A few surveys have been produced covering state practice in particular areas of law. They include the following:

  • Customary international humanitarian law, J.-M. Henckaerts and L. Doswald-Beck (eds.), Cambridge University Press, 2005
  • State practice regarding state immunities, Gerhard Hafner, M. G. Kohen and S. Breau (eds.), Martinus Nijhoff, c2006.

State practice on websites
Information about a state's current foreign policy practice may be found on the website of its foreign ministry:  see WorldLII for links. Websites for state practice are also listed in Gaebler and Smolka-Day (ed.s), Sources of State Practice in International Law.

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International law decisions

Judicial decisions are a secondary source of international law, according to article 31(1) (d) of the Statute of the International Court of Justice. Decisions on issues of international law are made by international courts and tribunals, but they are also made by the courts of individual states, which are referred to in this context as 'municipal' courts.

General sources of international cases
The broadest collections of international law decisions are found in the International Law Reports, Oxford Reports on International Law, WorldLII and International Legal Materials, as detailed below.

  • International Law Reports (ILR): the leading reporter of international law decisions in English. ILR publishes the decisions of international courts and arbitral tribunals and the decisions of municipal courts in matters of international law - around 10,000 decisions, dating from 1919 to the present day. ILR began in the 1920s, as the Annual Digest of Public International Law Cases (cited as ADIL, AD, Ann.Dig or Annual Digest).  Originally published by Longman and later by Butterworths, it is now a Cambridge University Press title.

IALS Library has the whole printed ILR series - more than 140 volumes - and Justis Publishing's online version (see IALS Electronic Law Library).

  • Oxford Reports on International Law (ORIL): a subscription database available via the IALS Electronic Law Library. ORIL has five modules, comprising more than 4,000 decisions in total:
  • International Law in Domestic Courts:  selected municipal decisions in the field of international law; judgments in the vernacular, with key passages translated into English where necessary; includes scholarly commentary. Most of the decisions date from 2000 onwards.
  • International Courts of General Jurisdiction: cases from the ICJ, Permanent Court of International Justice, International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and Permanent Court of Arbitration, 1902 onwards.
  • International Criminal Law: decisions of the International Criminal Court, the Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal. Most decisions date from the 1990s onwards.
  • International Human Rights Law: cases from the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, Inter-American Court of Human Rights, European Court of Human Rights and elsewhere, 1961 onwards. 
  • International Investment Claims: all publicly available awards and decisions in international investment arbitration cases, together with enforcement or review decisions from national courts. Includes cases from ICSID, the ICC International Court of Arbitration and many other arbitral bodies, 1990 onwards.
  • ​WorldLII's International Courts and Tribunals Collection: this collection, on the free WorldLII website, brings together cases from more than 30 international courts and tribunals, plus UN committees, in a searchable database. Generally speaking, the content starts in the 1980s, the 1990s, or the 21st century; however, for some courts it goes back much further. Note that the content is not always current - a particular court's own website may be more up-to-date than WorldLII.
  • International Legal Materials (ILM): this series publishes a selection of international law decisions, with introductory notes. IALS has the whole printed series (1962 to date). ILM is also on Lexis Library (whole series), Westlaw International (via Westlaw UK, 1980 onwards) and HeinOnline (up to pre-current volume); all these databases are available via the IALS Electronic Law Library.

National sources
The decisions of municipal (national) courts in matters of international law are available in various collections.  IALS Library's holdings include the following:-

  • American International Law Cases: international law decisions from US courts, 1783 onwards.  
  • British International Law Cases: a collection of decisions of courts in the British Isles on points of international law: a compilation of decisions dating from around 1600 to 1970, arranged by subject.
  • Commonwealth International Law Cases: a compilation of decisions from courts in Commonwealth countries, arranged by subject. Most of the cases date from the 19th century or the first half of the 20th.

See also: ILR and ORIL's International Law in Domestic Courts module, both described above.

Decisions of individual courts
Almost every international court and tribunal has its own website, on which its decisions are available. Many also produce law reports in printed format.   Selected courts are covered below; further information is available in Mackenzie et al, Manual on international courts and tribunals (2nd ed., OUP, 2010) and from the website of the Project on International Courts and Tribunals (PICT).

The International Court of Justice (ICJ, 1946 - ): the ICJ publishes its decisions and related documents in two series: Reports of Judgments, Advisory Opinions and Orders and Pleadings, Oral Arguments and Documents. IALS has both series; they are also available on the ICJ website, HeinOnline, Lexis Library and Westlaw International. ICJ decisions may also be found in general sources such as ILR and ORIL. There is a detailed guide to ICJ-related research on Cornell University's website.


The Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ, operated1922 to 1940, dissolved 1946):  the forerunner of the ICJ. PCIJ decisions and related documents were published by the Court in the following series:

Publications of the Permanent Court of International Justice. Series A, Collection of Judgements

Publications of the Permanent Court of International Justice. Series B, Collection of Advisory Opinions

Publications of the Permanent Court of International Justice. Series A./B., Judgments

Permanent Court of International Justice. Series C, Pleadings, Oral Statements and Documents

IALS holds all the above series. They are on the ICJ website and HeinOnline as well, and are also covered by general sources such as ILR and Oxford Reports on International Law.


The International Criminal Court (ICC): established in 2002 and delivered its first judgment in March 2012. The ICC website provides transcripts and other court documents, for both ongoing and concluded cases. WorldLII has ICC procedural decisions and transcripts up to 2010. Summaries of selected ICC decisions appear in The Annotated Digest of the International Criminal Court, edited by Cyril Laucci (Martinus Nijhoff, 2007- ); IALS subscribes to this series. 

Outlines of ongoing proceedings are included in the ICC's annual reports to the UN, entitled Report of the International Criminal Court: Note by the Secretary-General. These reports are available on the ICC website and in the UN Official Document System.  See also the general sources such as ILR, ORIL and ILM (outlined above).

International criminal tribunalsinternational - or internationalised- criminal tribunals provide their decisions and other documents on their websites:-

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (also has a printed series, Judicial Reports, held at IALS.)

Special Court for Sierra Leone

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

See also: Annotated leading cases of international criminal tribunals, ILR, ORIL and ILM.

European Court of Human Rights and European Commission of Human Rights
The European Court of Human Rights was set up by the Council of Europe to hear cases involving alleged breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights.  It delivered its first judgment in 1960. It is not to be confused with the European Court of Justice, which is an EU institution - see below. There used to be a European Commission of Human Rights as well, but the Commission was merged into the Court in 1998. 

The official website, HUDOC, provides all the Commission's reports and decisions and almost all the Court's decisions.

The Court's decisions and other documents appear in these official series, all held at IALS:-

  • Publications of the European Court of Human Rights. Series A: Judgments and Decisions - cases 1960 to 1995; cited as 'ECHR', or 'Series A'. 
  • Publications of the European Court of Human Rights. Series B, Pleadings, oral arguments, and documents - cases1960-1988; cited as 'Series B'. 
  • Reports of Judgments and Decisions. Cases 1996 onwards; cited as 'ECHR'. Publication is slow, so cases are likely to appear first in commercially-published series, such as European Human Rights Reports and Butterworths Human Rights Cases (both printed series in IALS; EHRR also on Westlaw, BHRC on Lexis).

The Commission's decisions were officially published in the following series, both held at IALS:-

  • Collection of Decisions of the European Commission of Human Rights, until 1974; cited as 'CD' or ' Coll of Dec'.
  • Decisions and Reports, 1975 - 1998; cited as 'DR'.

See also the general sources outlined above.

The Court of Justice of the European Union
Decisions of the Court of Justice and General Court (formerly the Court of First Instance) are published in Reports of Cases before the Court of Justice and the General Court, commonly know as the 'European Court Reports', and cited as ECR. New decisions are slow to appear. Online sources are more current:  the official Curia and EUR-Lex websites and the subscription databases Lexis, Westlaw UK and Justis CELEX. (A new version of EUR-Lex has recently been launched, but as at May 2013 it is still under development.)

 See also: Common Market Law Reports and All England Law Reports (European Cases). For further information about EU research, see IALS Library's European Union research guide


Inter-American Court of Human Rights and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights was set up by the Organization of American States in 1979, under the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was established in 1959.  IALS does not hold their official publications, but extracts from leading cases may be found in Burgorgue-Larsen and Úbeda de Torres, The Inter-American Court of Human Rights: case law and commentary; see also Human Rights: the Inter-American System, Thomas Buergenthal and Robert E. Norris, ed.s (Oceana, 1982-1993; has a useful case index). Cases are also available online - see below.

 The Court publishes its decisions and related documents in the following series:

  • Series A: Judgments and Opinions
  • Series B: Pleadings, Oral Arguments and Documents [relating to cases in Series A]
  • Series C: Decisions and Judgments
  • Series D: Pleadings, Oral Arguments and Documents [relating to cases in Series C]
  • Series E: Provisional Measures

The Commission's decisions are published in the Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Indexes to these decisions have been published in 10 Am.U.J.Int'l L.& Pol. 19 and 16 Am. U. Int'l L. Rev. 353 (available on HeinOnline), and in the Repertorio de Jurisprudencia, mentioned below.

Online sources of OAS cases:

  • The Inter-American Court and Inter-American Commission provide their respective decisions on their websites.
  • The University of Minnesota Human Rights Library has Series A to E (see above) and the Court's annual reports, Statute, Rules and other documents; it also has the Commission's annual, special and country reports. 
  • There is an index and case digest on the website of Washington College of Law: the Repertorio de Jurisprudencia del Sistema Interamericano de Derechos Humanos. It is in Spanish only, but gives citations to the official reports. Washington College also provides the Commission's annual reports, sessional reports and special reports in its Inter-American Human Rights Database.

International law decisions by subject

Arbitration falls into the category of public international law when it involves the resolution of disputes between states. Commercial arbitration is not covered by this guide, but ASIL's Electronic Resource Guide has a chapter on researching international commercial arbitration.

The following sources cover arbitral awards in disputes between states:

  • ICSID Reports: Reports of cases decided under the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes...and related decisions... (Grotius, 1993 - ). Has cases dating from 1975 onwards; held at IALS. ICSID cases are also on its website.

  • Iran-United States Claims Tribunal Reports (Grotius, 1983 - ):  all the decisions of the Tribunal since it was established in 1981. Printed series held at IALS; also on Westlaw International (via Westlaw UK).

  • Reports of International Arbitral Awards (RIAA; United Nations, c.1948 - ) arbitrations between states from the 1920s onwards. IALS has the printed series and it is also available on the UN website and HeinOnline.

See ICC and criminal tribunals, above.

Human rights
The International Human Rights Law module of Oxford Reports on International Law has decisions from all the major human rights bodies, including UN committees.  See also European Court of Human Rights, Inter-American Court of Human Rights and General Sources, above. 

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) provides all its cases on its website and and also publishes them in Reports of judgments, advisory opinions, and orders (IALS Library's holdings are incomplete). See also ORIL and ILR.

World Trade Organization decisions are available on the WTO website and in the printed series Dispute Settlement Reports (held at IALS). They are also on the subscription databases Lexis Library, Westlaw International and Commentary on WTO decisions is available on


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Teaching of publicists

The teachings of leading scholars in the field of public international law ('publicists') can be cited as evidence of international law. These teachings may be found in treatises, journals, the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law and the publications of the International Law Commission.They are even available in video format, in the UN Lecture Series.

The selection of particular authorities is a subjective process. In the UK, established treatises include Jennings, R., Oppenheim's International Law (9th ed., OUP, 1992); Brownlie, I., Principles of Public International Law (7th ed., OUP, 2008); and McNair, A., Law of treaties (Clarendon Press,1961). Further information about books, journals and the Max Planck Encyclopedia is given below.


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IALS has a very large collection of books on public international law: see Library Catalogue. Their main location is the second floor reading room, but some key texts are kept in the Short Loan Collection on the fourth floor and older works are in the basement Reserve. 

General titles include the following - very small - selection:

  • Crawford, James, Brownlie's Principles of public international law (8th ed., Oxford University Press, 2012)
  • Cassese, Antonio, International law (2nd ed., Oxford University Press, 2005)
  • Shaw, Malcolm, International law (6th ed., Cambridge University Press, 2008)

Journals and yearbooks

Scholarly articles on international law topics are published in both journals and yearbooks. IALS subscribes to a very large number of these series; to find them on the Library Catalogue, search by Subject Heading "international law--periodicals".  

The following are a selection of leading international law journals, all held at IALS:

  • American Journal of International Law (AJIL), American Society of International Law, 1907 -
  • International and Comparative Law Quarterly (ICLQ), British Institute of International and Comparative Law, 1952 -
  • Journal de droit international (Clunet): founded by Edouard Clunet in 1874; now published by LexisNexis.
  • European Journal of International Law (EJIL): European University Institute, 1990 - ; back issues free on the internet
  • Recueil des Cours / Collected Courses, Hague Academy of International Law, 1923 -
  • Zeitschrift für ausländisches öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht, or Heidelberg Journal of International Law, (ZaoRV / HJIL):  Max Planck Inst. for Comparative Public Law and International Law, 1929  - ; back issues free on the internet

The library's substantial collection of international law yearbooks includes the British Year Book of International Law and numerous other national titles. We also have regional yearbooks, such as African Yearbook of International Law and the Asian Yearbook of International Law


The Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law (MPEPIL) is the leading source. It is edited by Rüdiger Wolfrum, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law.  IALS has both the online version, and the print edition (OUP, 2012).

The Encyclopedia consists of more than 1,600 articles by experts, embracing all aspects of public international law. It includes thirty-five 'overview articles', providing an introduction to a broad area or fundamental concept of international law. Each article has a detailed bibliography.

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Listed below are a few key websites; links to other sites are provided in each section of this guide, above.

  • Eagle-i:  gateway to law websites, including international law sites, provided by IALS Library
  • Electronic Resource Guide (ERG):  the American Society of International Law's guide to international law resources on the web, arranged in subject-based chapters.

  • International Law Commission (ILC): this UN body develops and codifies international law; its website provides ILC publications from 1949 onwards, and a research guide.

  • Researching Public International Law: substantial, detailed research guide by Kent McKeever, Director of the Arthur W. Diamond Law Library at Columbia University in the US (last updated 2006).

  • UN Treaty Collection: free access to the UN Treaty Series, League of Nations Treaty Series and related information.

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