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Chapter

This chapter examines the international legal context of human rights. It first considers the historical evolution of international human rights law, with particular emphasis on the reincarnation of philosophical ideals as international laws (treaties), before discussing the principal sources of international human rights law such as customary international law and ‘soft’ law. It then describes the various forms of expressing human rights, along with the core international human rights instruments. It also explores the mechanisms for monitoring and enforcing human rights, including the United Nations system, regional human rights systems, and national human rights systems. Finally, it explains the process followed for a state wishing to be bound to the provisions of a treaty and the benefits of listing human rights in treaties.

Chapter

1. Introduction  

What is international law and why does it matter for international relations?

This introductory chapter provides an overview and a brief history of international law. Why should students of international relations be interested in international law? International politics and international law are so closely intertwined that one cannot be understood without understanding the other. The United Nations describes international law as ‘the legal responsibilities of States in their conduct with each other, and their treatment of individuals within State boundaries’. Just as domestic law frames a political community and regulates relations among its members, international law helps to frame international society, to signal its core values, and to regulate relations among states and other actors. The chapter then considers two philosophical traditions that have shaped the study and practice of international law over the past four centuries: natural law and legal positivism.

Book

This book is an introduction to international law for politics and international relations students. It provides a deep understanding of the possibilities and limits of international law as a tool for structuring relations in the world. The case study-driven approach helps students understand the complexities of international law, and illustrates the inextricable interaction between law and politics in the world today. In addition, it encourages students to question assumptions, such as whether international law is fit for purpose, and what that purpose is or ought to be. The book also discusses the potential of rising powers to shift the international system.

Chapter

This chapter discusses international law (IL) and international relations (IR) theory. It studies legal theory in order to better understand what law is, and how IL compares with domestic law. The chapter then introduces the major schools of IR theory, with a focus on how they conceptualize IL and its role in enabling and constraining the conduct of international politics. The disciplinary estrangement between IR and IL began to ease at the end of the 1980s. By that time there were already important strands within IR, including the English School, that were seeking to explain the prevalence of cooperation in an anarchical international system. New generations of IR scholars began theorizing the role of IL in structuring international politics, particularly from the perspectives of liberalism and constructivism, as well as from a range of critical approaches.

Chapter

13. International criminal justice  

From Nuremberg to the International Criminal Court

This chapter assesses whether international politics can be conducted in the courtroom. It begins with an analysis of the post-Second World War Nuremberg tribunal. While flawed in many ways, these proceedings marked a significant change in thinking about international crimes and individual responsibility. Though the onset of the Cold War prevented the translation of the Nuremberg legacy into more permanent, treaty-based international institutions, the ideas Nuremberg incubated were to have a lasting impact on international law. As in so many other areas of international law and international politics, the end of the Cold War was a watershed. The 1990s saw the revival of ad hoc international criminal tribunals, most notably the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The chapter then examines the International Criminal Court, which is, in many ways, the culmination of efforts to institutionalize international criminal justice.

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This chapter examines the sources of international law. International legal rules are not as easily located as their domestic law counterparts. Whereas at the domestic level, only a relatively small number of bodies are endowed with law-making powers, at the international level, all states have law-making capacity. Moreover, state acts are not the only source of international legal rules. The result is a mosaic of law-making processes, forums, and regimes. The chapter focuses on the two most significant sources of international law: treaties and customary international law. It then turns to the relationship between international law-making and the principle of state sovereignty. Finally, the chapter considers the body of non-binding norms, which increasingly permeates and regulates all facets of international life. This so-called soft law takes many forms; it is often highly influential in its own right and may harden into binding law over time.

Chapter

This chapter investigates whether and how the laws that govern armed conflict achieve their objective of minimizing the suffering of combatants and non-combatants alike. International humanitarian law (IHL) reflects the tensions of an international legal order that oscillates between the apologist tendency to reflect state practice and state self-interest and the utopian desire to reflect higher values of justice and human dignity. The chapter begins with a brief overview of the evolution of this body of law, the codification of which dates from the second half of the nineteenth century. It then turns to the question of terminology, analysing the political origins and legal implications of the relatively recent term ‘international humanitarian law’. The chapter focuses on two key questions. Firstly, who or what is a legitimate target during an armed conflict? Secondly, what are legitimate means of conducting armed conflict? The chapter also considers the status of nuclear weapons under international law, a topic that captures well both the possibilities and limits of IHL.

Chapter

14. The politics of international law  

Continuity and change

This chapter draws together the key themes of this book, using contemporary debates over the nature and future of international order, and explores likely sources of continuity and change in the politics of international law. It begins by expanding on the concept of international order and, more specifically, the so-called liberal international order that has framed international politics in the postwar period. The chapter asks whether and why the liberal international order is in crisis and how it is likely to evolve. It then turns to the rise of non-Western powers, a phenomenon that many observers have argued is contributing to the crisis of the current order. The focus is on what the changing balance of material power may reveal about the present and future of international law. Finally, the chapter offers some tentative conclusions about the politics of international law two decades into the twenty-first century.

Chapter

This chapter assesses why international legal obligations are (or are not) complied with, and how they are (or are not) enforced. It begins by drawing a distinction between laws and norms. The chapter then examines the main explanations for international law compliance put forward by both international law and international relations scholars. These may be broadly grouped into two categories: instrumentalist explanations and normative explanations. The chapter also discusses the concept of state responsibility—that is, the body of rules governing when and how states may be held liable for violations of international law. International law-enforcement is indelibly shaped by the condition of international anarchy. According to the concept of self-help, an injured state may, under certain circumstances, unilaterally take countermeasures against the guilty party. Such measures may include sanctions, though these may also be ordered by the UN Security Council as a collective security measure. The international legal system also increasingly makes use of judicial procedures that approximate those found within states. In this connection, the chapter considers the role of courts and tribunals in adjudicating disputes and promoting compliance with international law.

Chapter

This chapter describes the broad challenges involved in establishing global order under conditions of anarchy through international law. The fact that there is no world government with powers akin to national governments means that maintaining cooperative relations between and among states is always a careful balancing act, given the problem of enforcing international law in the absence of a single, overarching sovereign authority. The chapter looks at law in the global sphere through the notion of rule of law. It then considers the emergence of international law in broad historical perspective. Moving on to international law in the twentieth century, and up to the present period, the chapter examines the nature of treaties, charters, and covenants which operate in multiple issue areas from postal services, trade, and aviation to communications, the environment, and human rights. It also focuses on two major international courts: the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC). Finally, the chapter reflects on how the principles and practices of a rules-based international order are faring in the contemporary period with a focus on Russia, China, and the US.

Chapter

This chapter focuses on human rights, a perfect topic through which to study the interaction between law and politics in international relations. The topic of human rights offers a microcosm of the clashes and contradictions between realism and idealism, legal principles and political expediencies, state and non-state actors, and collective and individual rights, which characterize international order. The chapter defines human rights and outlines their international legal framework. The chapter then traces the postwar evolution of international human rights law (IHRL). It explains how, by the late twentieth century, the concept of human rights had captured the global imagination. It also explores the international political context in which the rise of human rights took place, including decolonization and the explosion in rights-based civil society activism in the 1970s. Finally, the chapter analyses the efficacy of IHRL in a world of sovereign states, before assessing the cultural relativist critique of human rights, which challenges their claim to universality, often from the perspective of postcolonial societies.

Chapter

Christian Reus-Smit

This chapter examines debates surrounding the nature and efficacy of modern international law. It begins by discussing the reasons why international societies construct institutions, and why different sorts of institutions have emerged in different historical contexts. It then considers the nature and origins of the modern institution of international law, its relationship with the practice of multilateralism, and the recent cosmopolitanization of the global legal order. It also explores the laws of war and concludes with an overview of different theoretical approaches to international law such as realism, neoliberal institutionalism, and constructivism. Two case studies are presented: the first is about whether international law is an expression of Western dominance and the second is about individual criminal accountability in non-Western countries. There is also an Opposing Opinions box that asks whether international law has any real effect on the nature and conduct of international relations.

Chapter

This chapter examines contemporary critiques of human rights, focusing on the downside of human rights claims — what is commonly understood by advocates of human rights to be the ‘misuse’ or ‘abuse’ of human rights. It first considers how human rights claims conflate ethical and legal claims because the subject of rights is not a socially constituted legal subject. It then discusses the rise of human rights as well as the relationship between human rights claims and international interventions such as humanitarianism, international law, and military intervention. In particular, it analyses the ethical, legal, and political questions raised by the Kosovo war. The chapter shows that there is a paradox at the heart of the human rights discourse, which enables claims made on behalf of victims, the marginalized, and excluded to become a mechanism for the creation of new frameworks for the exercise of power.

Chapter

This chapter evaluates global governance and how it relates to international law. It addresses the role of international organizations in processes of global governance, charting their rise from the nineteenth century onwards. Two international organizations exemplify semi-legalized governance beyond the state: the United Nations and the European Union. Sovereign states, of course, continue to play a central role in the institutions, processes, and mechanisms of global governance. The chapter then explores the extent to which a state’s power, influence, and legitimacy are affected by factors such as its domestic political arrangements and its adherence to the liberal, Western values that underpin the postwar order. It also assesses whether the proliferation of legalized and semi-legalized global governance regimes amounts to a constitutionalization of international relations.

Chapter

This chapter addresses the intersection of international law and international politics as it relates to global trade. To study global economic governance is to study international law, international relations, and international political economy (IPE) all at once. The chapter begins with a brief introduction to IPE, a discipline which seeks to understand the workings of the global economy in its political context. It examines the relationship between economic globalization and state sovereignty, before turning to the construction of the postwar global economic order, with a focus on the Bretton Woods institutions. The postwar global economic order has often been described as ‘liberal’ by virtue of its underlying assumptions and the ideological convictions of its framers. Importantly, the postwar liberal order was built by, and for, the developed countries of the Global North-a fact that has informed critiques emanating from the developing countries of the Global South. The chapter then assesses global trade governance, analysing the structure, powers, and role of the World Trade Organization.

Chapter

William Abel, Elizabeth Kahn, Tom Parr, and Andrew Walton

This chapter argues that there is a just cause to intervene militarily in a state that systematically violates the human rights of its members. It rejects the views of those who contend that there is no justification for humanitarian intervention because there are no universal moral values. The chapter accepts that the value of political self-determination can explain what is wrong with humanitarian intervention in some cases. However, appeals to this value are decisive less often than many critics of intervention suppose. One concern with adopting a permissive attitude towards humanitarian intervention is that this might be open to misuse. The chapter then articulates a role for international law in authorizing intervention to minimize this risk. It concludes by clarifying how these arguments fit within a wider set of considerations pertinent to the justifiability of humanitarian intervention.

Chapter

9. States, nations, and colonies  

The law and politics of self-determination

This chapter investigates how-and how effectively-international law strikes a balance between the individual and collective rights of people, and the prerogatives of sovereign states. It begins by exploring the what, who, and where of self-determination. Self-determination is a concept that has meant different things to different people at different times. Its meaning under international law can only be understood in relation to the shifting paradigms of international politics in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The chapter discusses the Wilsonian principle of self-determination and its partial application during the interwar period. It then turns to the post-Second World War rebirth of self-determination as a right of colonized peoples to independent statehood. The chapter also considers the concept of internal self-determination, before analysing what external self-determination has come to mean in non-colonial contexts and the problem of remedial secession. Finally, it examines the law and politics of recognition of statehood.

Chapter

This chapter explores the justness, legitimacy, and legality of war. While 1945 was a key turning point in the codification of jus ad bellum (i.e. international law on the use of force), that framework did not emerge in a vacuum. Rather, it was the product of historical political contingencies that meant that codification of the laws of war was contemporaneous, both geographically and temporally, with the solidification of the norms of sovereign nation-statehood and territorial integrity. The chapter focuses on the UN Charter regime and how it has shaped the politics of war since 1945. Importantly, the Charter establishes a general prohibition on the use of force in international relations. It also grants two exceptions to the prohibition: actions undertaken with Security Council authorization and actions taken in self-defence. Today, many of the most serious challenges to the Charter regime concern the definition and outer limits of the concept of self-defence. Another set of challenges to the Charter regime concerns the contested concept of ‘humanitarian intervention’. The chapter then looks at the development of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine.

Chapter

This chapter examines the place of international law in international politics, with particular emphasis on whether legal constraint is effective in averting or limiting the use of force by states. It begins with a discussion of the efficacy of international law in regulating the behaviour of states, focusing on the so-called perception–reality gap in international law. It then considers various reasons why states obey the law, from fear of coercion to self-interest and perceptions of legitimacy. It also explores the role and status of breaches of international law in international politics as well as the functions of the two laws of armed conflict, namely, jus ad bellum and jus in bello. Finally, it analyses the apparent paradox of legal constraint on warfare in relation to power politics and the mitigatory effects of norms governing the conduct of war.

Chapter

This chapter examines the place of international law in international politics, with particular emphasis on whether legal constraint is effective in averting or limiting the use of force by states. It begins with a discussion of the efficacy of international law in regulating the behaviour of states, focusing on the so-called perception–reality gap in international law. It then considers various reasons why states obey the law, from fear of coercion to self-interest and perceptions of legitimacy. It also explores the role and status of breaches of international law in international politics as well as the functions of the two laws of armed conflict, namely, jus ad bellum and jus in bello. Finally, it analyses the apparent paradox of legal constraint on warfare in relation to power politics and the mitigatory effects of norms governing the conduct of war.