International Law

INTL254 Introduction to International Human Rights
Professor Nadya Nedelsky
reaction essays prepared by students

IC. Group 2

Chapter 2 mentions that, “human rights is characteristically imagined as a movement involving international law and institutions” (Steiner, 57). In reading this statement, several perplexing questions arise concerning how this association of human rights and international law has come to exist. Some of these questions include:

• How is the concept of international law possible when no centralized form of a global government is in place?
• Why is there a need for international law?
• How is international law implemented and consented upon?
• How is international law enforced?
• Is international law absolute over national law?
• What is the role of international law in respect to human rights?

In an attempt to address these issues, chapter 2 provides an examination into the doctrines and principles precedent to the human rights movement in order to understand and examine the basic sources of and understandings about international law. The chapter looks at customs and treaties to see how both have influenced the path that has led to the development of an international legal concept.

In this chapter, customs are referred to as the “oldest and original source of international law” (Steiner 69). Customs can be briefly described as the expected conduct that a state undertakes in regards to a particular situation. A crucial element of custom is the acceptance and consent of those engaged in the practice. Although custom is not a legal decision and although it stemmed from what Lord Stowell called a “rule of comity only” (Steiner 62), custom in the last hundred years has evolved into settled rule of international law generally assented upon.

In this reading, we see the complexity involved in international law, such as the lack of legal binding and large reliance on consent and abidance. International law is the evolution of accepted conducts among a number of consenting parties used in order to create stability and order. In regards to human rights, international law is difficult to establish because what is right and good for human life may differ across cultures and regions.

In conclusion, international law is perplexing to understand because of its decentralized nature. International law relies mainly on the conduct of its consenters, and their acceptance and binding to the law itself.

Questions to consider are:
• How much of a role does power dynamics play in the creation, implementation, and binding of international law?
• How does international law deal with different perceptions of law across cultures?



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