International Law and Sovereignty

Essay Question 2

  1. Introduction

    The core principle of international law is state sovereignty.[1] State sovereignty basically means that the state have absolute power in regard to matters concerning within itself. To comply with an international law, a state would have to give up or at least partially give up sovereignty to take in the law and enact the law within itself. However, the problem arise when a sovereign state refuses to comply or take part in the international law. This means some essential international laws such as enforcement of human rights, nuclear weapons, weapon restrictions during war ... etc may not be effective at all. It may end up been a piece of legislation that no one wants to take part in. One solution can be ‘suspension of sovereignty’, which is granting United Nation power to forcefully enact laws in any state which it sees as necessary. However, as the paper will show, nothing is simple or straight forward with sovereignty and international law. It is a long and winding road, which tend to loop into circles.

  2.1.   History of sovereignty

    It is important to take a look at the history of sovereignty before diving into the discussion of the concept of sovereignty. Sovereignty had various meanings throughout history. It retained a core meaning which is ‘supreme authority within a territory’.[2] In the modern time, it is more known as political authority. Two major movements in history developed sovereignty – firstly the Treaty of Westphalia 1648 and secondly the circumscription of the sovereign state which began after World War II.[3] The Treaty of Westphalia 1648 was a result of 30 years on going war. The treaty involved Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand III (Habsburg), the Kingdoms of Spain, France, Sweden, the Dutch Republic and their allies, the Princes of the Holy Roman Empire, and sovereigns of the Free imperial cities.[4] The treaty of Westphalia did not create a sovereign states system ex bihilo, but what it...