International Law Prof Blog
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International Law: Guide Introduction
Resources available at the Western Michigan University-Cooley Law School libraries on the subject of International Law cover virtually every nation and almost 100 sub-topics. This guide is intended as a starting point for performing basic research in International Law.
The guide is organized according to the topics listed to the left, in the guide outline.
In the sections of the guide focusing on print materials, the location provides the call number for a work. Clicking on the title takes a user to the relevant entry in the catalog. Where possible, guide sections about statutes link to the appropriate law. Please be advised that the source location linked to this guide refer only to the most current edition owned by the WMU-Cooley Law School libraries. Earlier editions of a work may be available at additional WMU-Cooley library locations. A title search in the online catalog (CoolCat) may uncover additional editions and locations for a particular title.
And please contact us if you have any questions or need further guidance.
International Law: Basics
The five major sources of international law include:
- Case law
- Soft Laws
International case law may include civil and criminal cases heard in a country’s national courts, the courts of treaty organizations such as the European Union’s Court of Justice, and the International Court of Justice (often called the “World Court” or ICJ).
Conventions are formal statements of principle created by international non-governing organizations. Examples of conventions to which the U.S. is signatory include the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Torture Convention -- U.N. High Commission for Human Rights) and the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention). Conventions are treated by nations that adopt them as law at the same level as other treaties that the country follows.
Customs (or Customary Laws) refer to those legal norms or established practices within and between States which have not been formally written but are depended upon by those nations who have adopted the custom. The legal obligations accepted by States as customary law are generally seen as mutually beneficial among nations following that custom. Those customary laws which have been accepted by all or most nations (e.g.: prohibitions against slavery) can become Peremptory Norms (also known as Jus Cogens) which can be changed only by another norm of equal acceptance.
Soft Laws refer to commitments made through negotiations but which are not legally binding. Resolutions and declarations of principle are forms of soft law. Soft law does set standards which can evolve into a binding legal instrument.
Treaties are agreements between nations and serve many purposes. Treaties may codify customary law, define national boundaries and set trade limits.
International law also includes laws between nations, laws pertaining to international business transactions, laws relating to the operations of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the laws of regional treaty organizations and governing bodies. Numerous books and journals in the Cooley libraries cover topics such as the
The Cooley law libraries have an extensive microform collection, including a long run of treaties and executive agreements that the United States has made with foreign nations and treaty organizations.
Immigration law is not covered in this guide because, although immigration law impacts international rights and is addressed in covenants established by international organizations such as the United Nations, it usually is part of the national law and policy of individual countries.