Public International Law: International Courts and Enforcement


Tochukwu Nwekwo *

When the term law is used, it is generally referred to as consisting of a series of binding or enforceable rules regulating behaviour, which to some extent reflects the ideas and preoccupations of the society, within which it functions. In the words of the renowned nineteenth century English Philosopher John Austin elaboration on the theory of law, he based it upon the notion of a sovereign issuing a command backed by a sanction or punishment. But, since international law did not fit within that definition it was relegated to the category of positive morality. Basic concepts of international law such as treaties can be traced back thousands of years. Early examples of treaties include around 2100BC an agreement between the rulers of the city-states of Lagash and Umma in Mesopotamia, inscribed on a stone block, setting a proscribed boundary between their two states. The Westphalian treaties of 1648 was another breaking ground in the history of public international law and was a turning point in establishing the principle of State Sovereignty as a cornerstone of the international order. However the first attempts at formulating autonomous theories of international law occurred before this, in Spain, in the 16th century. In 1625, Hugo Grotius [referred to by most people as father of international law] followed with the first systematic treatise on international law, de iure belli ac pacis, which dealt with the laws of war and peace. One important aspect of Grotius's treatment of international law is that he no longer bases it exclusively upon Natural Law, but also accepts that states among themselves can also create binding rules of law (ius voluntarium). Still, in the 17th and 18th centuries, the idea of natural law as a basis for international law remained influential. Yet, in the second half of the 18th century, a shift

occurs towards...