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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, June 2020

About the author HS

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

Email hester.swift@sas.ac.uk

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Introduction

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 law 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 (leading scholars in the field of public international law). 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 series of international law reports; hundreds of yearbooks and journals; and thousands of monographs. A large area of the third floor reading room is devoted to international law, while 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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Treaties

A treaty is a written agreement between two or more states, governed by international law (Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 1969, art.2(1)(a)). It does not necessarily have the word  'treaty' in its  title: it could call itself a 'convention', 'agreement', or something else.

IALS Library has produced a free online course covering treaty research.

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. 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). All treaties entered into by UN member states have to be registered with the UN Secretariat and published by it (Charter of the UN, art. 102), although a few treaties are not published in full (the UNTC website has information about limited and partial publication). Some treaties are missing from the UNTS and publication of new treaties is slow; if the treaty you want is not in the UNTS, find an alternative source using a treaty index (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; all volumes are kept in the IALS Offsite Store.

 

  • Multilateral Treaties Deposited with the Secretary General (MTDSG): this UN publication records signatures, ratifications and other treaty actions, but only covers the 560 or so treaties formally deposited with the Secretary General, a very small proportion of the treaties published in the UNTS. MTDSG covers a few treaties pre-dating the UN. It used to be an annual print publication (1949-2009, in IALS 1949 to 2006) but has been superseded by a continually-updated online version, which is on the UN Treaty Collection website (under Status of Treaties). HeinOnline's UN Law Collection has an online version of the old annual print edition (1981-2009).
  • 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 on the UN Treaty Collection website and on HeinOnline. IALS has the bound LNTS volumes in its Offsite Store.
  • International Legal Materials (ASIL, 1962 - ): ILM 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 of reproducing the text). IALS has the printed ILM volumes and the series is also on Lexis®Library (all volumes), Westlaw International Materials (1980 onwards) and HeinOnline (1962 to pre-current volume); these databases may be accessed by authorised users 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 Council of Europe Treaty Series (CETS), formerly known as the European Treaty Series (ETS, 1949-2003). IALS holds the entire series at classmark FOL GO1.A.20.E.1. All CoE treaties are also on the Council of Europe 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; it categorises other international instruments as 'international agreements'. EU treaties and international agreements are published in the Official Journal of the European Union, which is on the EUR-Lex website. EU treaties and international agreements are also on Lexis®Library and Westlaw UK (see IALS Electronic Law Library). The bound volumes of the Official Journal are held in the IALS Offsite Store. 

Status information for EU treaties and international agreements (and the full text of these documents) is given on the EU's Consilium websiteThe European Commission has a database of EU international agreements which includes summaries, citations and other information, plus full-text documents. For more information, please see our EU research guide.

  • African Union (AU): all African Union treaties are on the AU website; some have also been published in International Legal Materials and/or the African Yearbook of International Law, both of which are available at IALS in hard copy and online (see Library Catalogue).

  • Organization of American States (OAS): treaties concluded by the OAS are known as 'inter-American treaties'; they appear in the OAS' Treaty Series / Serie sobre tratados (held at IALS 1970-1985 only); they are also on the OAS website, with status information. 

 National treaty sources

Many common law jurisdictions , such as the UK, publish the treaties to which they are a party in their own national treaty series, while civil law jurisdictions, such as France, tend to publish treaties in their official gazettes; some states provide a treaty database online, often on the website of the foreign ministry. National treaty sources for Australia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States are detailed below. For other jurisdictions, try the Eagle-I web portal (resource type: treaties) or WorldLII's International Treaties Collection; see also Winterton and MoysInformation Sources in Law (2nd edn, Bowker Saur 1997).

 

  • 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 Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade provides status information for Australian treaties in its Australian Treaty Database.

  • France: the official source of French treaties is the Journal officiel de la République française (JO). IALS does not hold the printed JO, but it is on the official Légifrance website from 1990 onwards. The French Foreign Ministry also provides a database of current and historical treaties, with status information, called Base des Traités et Accords de la France.

  • 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 as command papers (a type of official publication); before they come into force, new 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; once they come into force for the UK, all types of treaties are published in the Treaty Series (UKTS, 1892 - )

    IALS Library holds the UKTS from 1946 onwards (including indexes), the whole European Communities/Union series and selected items from the Miscellaneous series. All treaties to which the UK is (or has been) a party are included in the UK Treaties Online database on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website. Recent treaties are available on the FCO's UK Treaties page

Information about changes to the status of UK treaties is added to the UK Treaties Online database weekly; details are also published in the United Kingdom Treaty Action Bulletin (2013 onwards; appears to have superseded the Supplementary List: Treaty Ratifications, Accessions, Withdrawals). Status information for treaties to which the UK is a party can also be obtained by contacting the FCO Treaty Section. Status information for the 40 or 50 multilateral treaties deposited with the UK is available from the FCO's Depositary page.

United States: in the US, international instruments are categorised either as 'treaties' or as 'international agreements', and different procedures are used to approve each type. Both types are published first as individual pamphlets, in the Treaties and Other International Acts Series (TIAS); this publication is now issued online only. Treaties/agreements concluded from 1950 to 1982 were collected into the bound volumes of United States Treaties and Other International Agreements (UST), but UST then ceased publication; before UST started, treaties and international agreements were collected into the annual volumes of Statutes at Large

IALS Library holds UST and Statutes at Large and also offers online collections of US treaties/agreements, via HeinOnline, Lexis®Library and Westlaw International Materials.

Online sources of US treaties and agreements:-

State Department websiteTreaties and Other International Acts Series (TIAS), 1981 onwards;

HeinOnlineUS Treaties and Agreements Library has treaties and agreements from 1776 onwards (includes TIAS)

Lexis LibraryUS Treaties on Lexis has treaties and agreements from 1776 onwards;

 

​Westlaw International MaterialsWestlaw's United States Treaties and Other International Agreements collection covers treaties and agreements involving the US from 1778 onwards;


Federal Digital System (FDsys): this official website has treaties from the 104th Congress (1995-96) onwards, in its Congressional Documents collection.

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.

A detailed guide to US treaty research is available from the Arthur W. Diamond Law Library at Columbia University.


Treaties by subject

Selected subject-based collections are listed below:-

  • Children: Van Bueren, G. (ed.), International documents on children (2nd rev edn, Martinus Nijhoff 1998).
  • Human rights: the University of Minnesota Human Rights Center provides an online library of human rights treaties; see also Brownlie, I., and Goodwin-Gill, G. (ed.s), Brownlie's documents on human rights, (6th edn, OUP 2010).
  • Intellectual property: the WIPO website makes available all the treaties that WIPO administers.
  • International trade:  the WTO and GATT agreements are on the WTO website; they are also on the subscription database TradeLawGuide (via IALS Electronic Law Library).
  • Investment:  UNCTAD 's Investment Policy Hub provides a collection of international investment agreements.
     
  • Taxation: IBFD Online, a subscription database available via the IALS Electronic Law Library, has a large collection of tax treaties.

Historical treaty collections

Clive Parry's Consolidated treaty series (CTS / Consol TS) is an important collection of treaties concluded between 1648 and 1920. IALS Library has the whole series (more than 230 volumes).

 

HeinOnline's World Treaty Library is a vast collection of treaties from 1648 onwards; for historical treaties it has very similar coverage to the Consolidated Treaty Series (it also has thousands of more recent treaties, up to the present day).

 

Other historical collections available from IALS Library include: -
 

  • British and Foreign State Papers (BFSP): treaties concluded by Britain/the UK from 1812 to 1968, plus some earlier treaties. The whole series is on HeinOnlineIALS Library's print set is incomplete.
  • Hertslet's Commercial Treaties: trade and other commercial treaties concluded from 1354 to 1921, with indexes. Also available on HeinOnline.
  • Martens, G. F. de, et al, Recueil de traités… (1761-1808); Nouveau recueil de traités... (1808-1839); Nouveau recueil général de traités.... (three series, covering 1840 to 1944), et cetera. The various Martens compilations include treaties in a variety of languages, not just French. Many are available on HeinOnline as well as being held at IALS.

See also: the Avalon Project: documents in law, history and diplomacy (Yale University), which includes key treaties from the ninth century onwards.

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Treaty indexes

IALS Library has a collection of treaty indexes at classmark BS40, and online indexes are also available:-

Global indexes

  • FLARE Index to Treaties: free web resource provided by IALS Library, covering about 2,000 multilaterals (seventeenth century onwards) and some bilaterals (1353 to 1815). Gives citations, place and date of signature, et cetera, and links to the full text where available.

  • HeinOnline's Treaty Index (part of the World Treaties Library): covers the period from 1648 onwards; available via IALS Electronic Law Library.

  • Bowman, M. and Harris, D., Multilateral Treaties: Index and Current Status (Butterworths 1984) and 11th Cumulative Supplement (1995). Arranged chronologically, with subject and keyword indexes; gives citations, location, parties, signatories and status. The online FLARE Index to Treaties (see above) is partly based on the contents of Bowman and Harris.

  • Rohn, P., World Treaty Index (2nd edn, ABC-Clio 1984): covers bilaterals and multilaterals, 1920-1984. Offers access by keyword, parties, date, or subject. Has been incorporated into HeinOnline's Treaty Index.

  • World Treaty Index: updated online version of Rohn's 1984 index; under development, in a project directed by Paul Poast (Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago). 

UK indexes

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

  • UK Treaties Online (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) indexes treaties from around 1835 onwards (and provides full-text treaties from 1892 onwards).

US indexes

  • Kavass, United States Treaty Index (also known as Kavass's Current Treaty Index) covers treaties and agreements 1776 onwards. IALS has the hard copy; also in HeinOnline’s US Treaties and Agreements Library 

  • Kavass’s Guide to the United States Treaties in Force: covers treaties and international agreements, 1776 onwards. IALS has the hard copy; also in HeinOnline’s US 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 editions or online. For example, the travaux for the European Convention on Human Rights have been published as Collected edition of the "travaux préparatoires" of the European Convention on Human Rights (held at IALS); a free online version is also available on the website of the Library of the European Court of Human Rights.

Ryan Harrington's list of Collected Travaux Préparatoires, on Yale University's website, is a good place to start your research. It give details of available travaux préparatoires in printed form and/or on the internet. Many of the print publications listed are held at IALS Library.

For further guidance, see:

  • Jonathan Pratter, 'À la Recherche des Travaux Préparatoires: An Approach to Researching the Drafting History of International Agreements', on New York University’s Globalex website.

  • 'What are travaux préparatoires and how can I find them?', a United Nations FAQ.

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 - see Catalogue).

Researchers may find evidence of state practice in diplomatic correspondence, legislation, legal opinions, national and international court decisions, treaties, parliamentary debates and elsewhere.  

IALS Library has produced a free interactive online course introducing printed and online sources for researching customary international law.

Bibliographies of state practice materials

IALS Library holds several bibliographies that explain where to find state practice documentation:-

  • Ralph Gaebler and Alison Shea (ed.s), Sources of State Practice in International Law (2nd edn, Brill 2014): covers 31 different jurisdictions.
  • Armin von Bogdandy and Anne Peters (ed.s), Public International Law: a Current Bibliography of Books and Articles (Springer 197- ), section 1.2, 'Surveys of State Practice'. This bibliography comes out twice a year; it is compiled at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law.

  • J.G. Merrills, A Current Bibliography of International Law (Butterworths 1978), section 2, 'State Practice'.

See also: Silke Sahl and Catherine Deane, Researching Customary International Law, State Practice and the Pronouncements of States Regarding International Law (2018), on New York University's Globalex website.

State practice in yearbooks and digests of international law
Yearbooks and digests outline state practice under systematic subject headings. They reproduce extracts from state practice documentation, summarise national court decisions in matters of international law and give details of treaty actions. Most yearbooks are national in scope, such as the British Year Book of International Law, but some are regional, for example the African Yearbook of International Law and the Asian Yearbook of International LawSelected national yearbooks and digests are detailed below (Australia, France, Germany, UK and US); for others, see bibliographies, or search the IALS Library Catalogue.

IALS has a large collection of yearbooks, including the following titles:-

  • 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. Held at IALS; also on HeinOnline (except latest volumes); partially available on AustLII website.

  • 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. Held at IALS; also on Persée website (except 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; 'German practice' section covers German court decisions on international law and other matters. Held at IALS.

  • United Kingdom:

    • British Yearbook of International Law (OUP, 1920- ): summarises British international law cases from around 1918 onwards; from 1978, has a section called 'United Kingdom Materials on International Law'. Held at IALS; also on Oxford Academic (1974/75) and HeinOnline (1920-1972/73).

    • 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 (OUP 1974-c.2012), annual; held at IALS up to 2012 volume but now online-only: see State Department website (where it is available from 1989 onwards). For updates to the Digest, see American Journal of International Law, under 'Practice of the United States Relating to International Law'.

    • Murphy, Sean D., United States Practice in International Law (Cambridge University Press, 1999 - 2004).

    • 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 (latter freely available on the internet up to pre-current volume).

For details of other journals with state practice material, see bibliographies.

State practice by subject
There are a few published surveys 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 the internet
Information about a state's current practice in the field of international relations may be found on the website of its foreign ministry: see WorldLII for links. Websites for state practice are also listed in Gaebler and Shea (ed.s), Sources of State Practice in International Law.

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Cases

Decisions on international law matters are made not only by international courts and tribunals, but also by the courts of individual states (also known as 'municipal courts', in the international law context). Cases constitute a subsidiary source of international law (ICJ Statuteart.38(1)(d)). 

IALS Library has produced a free interactive online course introducing printed and online sources for researching international cases.

General sources
The broadest collections of international law cases are found in the International Law Reports, Oxford Reports on International Law
International Legal Materials and WorldLII's International Courts & Tribunals Collection.

  • International Law Reports (ILR): the leading reporter of international law decisions in English, ILR publishes the decisions of international courts and tribunals as well as the decisions of municipal courts in matters of international law; it now includes more than 10,000 cases, from 1919 to the present day. ILR began in the 1920s under the title Annual Digest of Public International Law Cases (ADIL); formerly published by Longman, then Butterworths, it is now a Cambridge University Press title. IALS Library has the whole series, in print and online: see Catalogue.  

  • Oxford Reports on International Law (ORIL): an Oxford University Press database of more than 5,500 international cases, available via the IALS Electronic Law Library. Our ORIL subscription covers five modules:-

  • International Law in Domestic Courts (ILDC): selected municipal decisions in the field of international law, from all over the world, with scholarly commentary; judgments are available in the vernacular, but key passages are translated into English, where necessary; most ILDC cases are from the twenty-first century.

  • International Courts of General Jurisdiction: cases from the International Court of Justice, 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, the Special Court for Lebanon, the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal and a couple of municipal courts; most cases are 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, UN committees and elsewhere, 1960s 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, 1960s onwards.

  • ​WorldLII's International Courts and Tribunals Collection: this collection on the WorldLII website brings together cases from about thirty international courts and tribunals, plus UN committees. Generally speaking the content starts in the 1980s, 1990s, or later; however, for some courts it goes back much further. The content is not always current - the court's own website may be more up-to-date than WorldLII.

  • International Legal Materials (ILM): this series, produced by the American Society of International Law, publishes a selection of international law decisions with introductory notes. IALS holds the whole series (1962- ); it is also on Lexis®Library (whole series), Westlaw International Materials (1980 onwards) and HeinOnline (up to pre-current volume); all these databases are available via the IALS Electronic Law Library.

National sources
IALS Library's holdings include the following national sources:-

  • American International Law Cases: US court decisions on international law, 1783 onwards.  

  • British International Law Cases: British court decisions on international law, c.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.

The International Law Reports and ORIL's International Law in Domestic Courts (both described above) publish important municipal cases on international law.

See also: yearbooks of international law, many of which have a section devoted to municipal court decisions on points of international law.

Decisions of individual courts
Each international court and tribunal provides its decisions on its own website and many also produce hard copy law reports. Selected courts are covered below: - 


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, both held at IALS.

 

All ICJ judgments, opinions, pleadings and other case documents are on the ICJ website. Westlaw International Materials, HeinOnline and Lexis Library have a comprehensive collection of ICJ judgments and opinions; Lexis also has some of the pleadings and other documents, but not all of them. Selected ICJ decisions are found in general sources such as ILR and ORIL

 

The Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ, operated 1922 to 1940, was dissolved in 1946):  the forerunner of the ICJ. PCIJ decisions and related documents were published by the Court in the following series, all of which are held at IALS:

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


PCIJ cases are also on the ICJ website and HeinOnline, and selected ones appear in sources such as the International Law Reports and Oxford Reports on International Law.

 

The International Criminal Court (ICC): established in 2002, gave 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. A large collection of ICC cases is available in the International Criminal Law module of ORIL (see IALS Electronic Law LIbrary), while selected ICC cases are found in ILR and ILM (outlined above).

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

The ICC Legal Tools website is an extensive resource for researching international criminal law. It provides documents and decisions of the International Criminal Court, scholarly commentary and national legislation implementing the ICC Statute (it also covers other international criminal courts/tribunals, municipal cases and more). The site was developed by the Legal Advisory Section (LAS) of the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court. 

International criminal tribunals: many international / internationalised criminal tribunals provide their decisions on the internet, including the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia; the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda;  the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY); the Special Court for Sierra Leone; and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Some of these tribunals have completed all their cases, but maintain their websites as information sources.

Key international criminal decisions appear in Annotated Leading Cases of International Criminal Tribunals (Intersentia, 1999 - ), which is held at IALS. The International Criminal Law module of ORIL (see IALS Electronic Law Library) includes cases concerning Sierra Leone, Lebanon, Cambodia, Rwanda and Yugoslavia; it also covers the Nuremberg Tribunal, the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals and a few other bodies. IALS has the ICTY's print series, Judicial Reports.

The ICC Legal Tools website covers selected decisions, founding documents, regulations and other documentation relating to a wide range of international and internationalised criminal tribunals and related bodies: the Bosnian War Crimes Chamber (BWCC); the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia; the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia; the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda; the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg; the International Military Tribunal for the Far East; the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals; the Iraqi High Tribunal; the Special Court for Sierra Leone; the Special Panel for Serious Crimes (East Timor); the Special Tribunal for Lebanon; and the UN Mission in Kosovo

Other sources of international criminal cases include WorldLII's International Courts and Tribunals collection, the International Law Reports and International Legal Materials.

Further information about international criminal justice is available in Mackenzie et al, Manual on international courts and tribunals (2nd edn, OUP 2010; print and e-book available - see Catalogue).

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). The Council of Europe used to have a body called the European Commission of Human Rights, as well as the Court, but the Commission was merged into the Court in 1998. 

The Court's database, HUDOC, provides all European Commission of Human Rights reports and decisions and almost all European Court of Human Rights decisions. The HUDOC-EXEC database covers the execution of  ECHR rulings. 

European Court of Human Rights decisions and other documents are published 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 (cases 1960-1988), cited as 'Series B'. 

  • Reports of Judgments and Decisions (cases 1996 onwards), cited as 'ECHR'; publication of this series 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 held at IALS; EHRR also on Westlaw, BHRC on Lexis).


The decisions of the now-defunct European Commission of Human Rights were published in the following series, both held at IALS:-

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

General sources such as ILR, ORIL and ILM (see above) also publish European human rights cases. Further information about researching European human rights may be found in IALS Library's Council of Europe research guide.

The Court of Justice of the European Union
Decisions of the Court of Justice and the General Court (formerly 'Court of First Instance') are officially published by the EU in Reports of Cases before the Court of Justice and the General Court. This series is usually known as the 'European Court Reports' (ECR); IALS holds the whole series. 

The print edition of ECR published cases decided from 1954 to 2011, then it was replaced by an authenticated online-only edition. 

EU cases also appear  in UK publications such as Common Market Law Reports and All England Law Reports (European Cases). Both titles are held at IALS, though the latter ceased publication in December 2015. 

There are many online sources of EU cases, including the EU's own Curia and EUR-Lex websites and the subscription databases Lexis and Westlaw UK. 

For further information about EU research, see IALS Library's European Union research guide

 

Inter-American Human Rights System (Organization of American States)
The websites of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights provide their decisions and associated information. The official reports of the Inter-American Court are: 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. These reports are freely available in the University of Minnesota Human Rights Library; they are not held at IALS. 

At IALS Library, the largest source of cases from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights is probably Oxford Reports on International Human Rights Cases (see IALS Electronic Law Library). Selected cases are found in International Law Reports and International Legal Materials (ILM); ILM provides introductory notes to cases, as well as the judgments. Another source held at IALS is Burgorgue-Larsen, The Inter-American Court of Human Rights: case law and commentary (OUP 2011; print and e-book - see Catalogue).

The Inter-American Commission's decisions are published in the Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which is held at IALS from 1988/1989 to 2007 (incomplete) and also available from the University of Minnesota Human Rights Library. The documents contained in the Annual Report are on Westlaw International Materials from 1994 onwards, under 'Organization of American States: Inter-American Commission on Human Rights'.  

Indexes to Inter-American Commission cases have appeared in the American University Journal of International Law and Policy (10 Am.U.J.Int'l L.& Pol'y 19) and the American University International Law Review (16 Am. U. Int'l L. Rev. 353). Both journals are held at IALS and are also on HeinOnline.

For more information about inter-American human rights, see Naddeo and Avalos, The Inter-American System of Human Rights: A Research Guide (2016), on New York University's Globalex website.
 

International law cases by subject

Arbitration
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.... (Grotius, 1993 - ). Has cases dating from 1975 onwards; held at IALS; also available online - see Library Catalogue. There is also a database of ICSID cases on the World Bank website.

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

  • 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.

Criminal
See International Criminal Court and International 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. Further information is available above, under the headings 'European Court of Human Rights', 'Inter-American Court of Human Rights; and ;General Sources'. 

Maritime         
The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) provides all its cases on its website and also publishes them in Reports of judgments, advisory opinions, and orders (IALS Library's holdings are incomplete). ITLOS cases are included in the International Courts of General Jurisdiction module of Oxford Reports on International Law (ORIL, via IALS Electronic Law Library). Selected cases have been reported in ILR.

Trade
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 TradeLaw Guide (all available via IALS Electronic Law Library); commentary on WTO decisions is available on TradeLawGuide.

 

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Teaching of publicists

The teachings of leading publicists - scholars in the field of international law - may be cited as evidence of the rules of international law (ICJ Statute art.38(d)). These teachings may be found in books, journals, encyclopedias, the publications of the International Law Commission and elsewhere; 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 books on international law include Robert Jennings, Oppenheim's International Law (9th edn., OUP 1992); James Crawford, Brownlie's Principles of Public International Law (9th edn, OUP 2019); and Arnold McNair, Law of Treaties (Clarendon Press,1961). The Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law is a convenient source of commentary by leading authorities, arranged by topic. The UN has made a collection of scholarly writings available on the internet via its Research Library, under an arrangement with HeinOnline. Further information about books, journals and the Max Planck Encyclopedia is given below.

 

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Books

IALS has a very large collection of books on public international law, both printed and online: see Library Catalogue.

The e-book collections include Brill Online's International Law collection, Elgar Online's International Economic Law and Public International Law collections, Oxford Scholarly Authorities on International Law, Cambridge Core and Oxford Scholarship Online (see IALS Electronic Law Library). Many old treatises on international law are available in HeinOnline's Legal Classics library (see Electronic Law Library) and/or the free Hathi Trust Digital Library.

The main location for printed books on public international law is at classmarks starting 'SG', on the third floor of the library, but some key texts are in the Short Loan Collection. Many older works are kept the basement Depository; they can be brought out on request (please ask at the Enquiries Desk).

Introductory titles on international law include the following small selection:

  • Malcolm Shaw, International Law (8th edn, Cambridge University Press 2017)

  • James Crawford, Brownlie's Principles of Public International Law, (9th edn, Oxford University Press  2019); e-book version also available (see Catalogue).

  • Malcolm Evans, International Law (5th edn, Oxford University Press 2018)

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Journals and yearbooks

IALS holds a substantial collection of international law journals and yearbooks, in hard copy and online: see Library Catalogue. A yearbook is similar to a journal, but only comes out once a year, and as well publishing scholarly articles, yearbooks of international law often have a section devoted to reporting state practice in international law; some journals of international law also report state practice (see Customary International Law: state practice, above).

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

  • American Journal of International Law (AJIL), American Society of International Law, 1907 -  . Also available online (see Library Catalogue)
  • International and Comparative Law Quarterly (ICLQ), British Institute of International and Comparative Law,1952 - . Also available online (see Library Catalogue).
  • Journal du droit international, formerly Journal du droit international privé et de la jurisprudence comparée (cited by the name of its founder, Clunet), various publishers (currently LexisNexis), 1874 -  ;  historical issues free on the internet (1874-1914).
  • European Journal of International Law (EJIL): European University Institute, 1990 - ; back issues free on the internet; also available on various subscription databases (see Library Catalogue).
  • Recueil des cours / Collected Courses, Hague Academy of International Law, 1923 -  . Also available online (see Library Catalogue).
  • Zeitschrift für ausländisches öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht / Heidelberg Journal of International Law, (ZaoRV / HJIL):  Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, 1929  - ; back issues free on the internet

The Library's large 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. 

Many journals and yearbooks of international law are available online as well as in printed format, via links on the Library Catalogue. An overview of online resources for international law, including journals/yearbooks, is given in our Databases Guide.

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Encyclopaedias

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. The online version is available via the IALS Library Catalogue and the Electronic Law Library, and we also have the ten-volume print edition (OUP 2012). The Encyclopedia consists of more than 1,700 articles by experts, embracing all aspects of public international law, and each article has a detailed bibliography.

The Max Planck Encyclopedia of International Procedural Law (MPEiPro) was recently launched as a companion to the online MPEPIL. Edited by Professor Hélène Ruiz Fabri, Director of the Max Planck Institute Luxembourg for Procedural Law, it is an online-only title, available via the IALS Library Catalogue and the Electronic Law Library.

IALS also holds the one-volume title, The Parry & Grant Encyclopaedic Dictionary of International Law (3rd edn, Oxford University Press 2009).

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Websites

Some key websites are listed below; links to other sites are given in each section of this guide, above.

  • Audiovisual Library of International Law: the UN's free international law library, consisting of videoed lectures, scholarly writings, treaties, cases, research guides and other material.

  • Electronic Resource Guide (ERG):  the American Society of International Law's guide to international law resources on the web, arranged in subject-based chapters.

  • Electronic Information System for International Law (EISIL): gateway to international law websites, provided by the American Society of International Law; at the time of writing (June 2020) a new version was under development.

  • 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, maintained by Deborah L. Heller (last updated December 2017).

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

 

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