International Law Prof Blog
External current awareness resource.
International Law: Guide Introduction
Resources available at the Thomas M. 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 contact us if you have any questions or need any further guidance. Being asked for reference help is no bother--it's why we're here.
International Law: Basics
The four major sources of international law include:
- Case law
Case law in international law can include civil and criminal cases heard in any 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 that the U.S. is signatory to include: the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Conventions are treated by nations that adopt them as law at the same level as other treaties that the country follows.
Customs (or Customary Law) are legal norms that developed over time that have been collected and used in disputes between nations. Customs become part of a nation’s laws when they are consistently applied over time, reflect the country’s usual conduct in dealing with a particular situation, and another nation depends on the country to follow that custom in that situation. Those 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.
Treaties are agreements between nations, and serve many purposes. Some treaties 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, and the laws of regional treaty organizations and governing bodies. Numerous books and journals in the Library cover topics such as the U.S. federal government’s relations with other nations, aspects of other nations’ laws, and the work of non-government organizations.
Among the materials in the Cooley Law Libraries is 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 it usually is part of the federal law of most nations, rather than as international law.