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International Law Resources

International Law Resources

International Law has a distinguished history, but the tragic events of 11 September 2001 and its aftermath have certainly brought it into sharper focus.  In this time of conflict, academics, lawyers and politicians are examining many issues of international law, particularly in areas such as armed conflict, terrorism, universal sovereignty and human rights. This is especially acute at a time when the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague is proceeding against Slobodan Milosevicor when the current Iraq War is invoking experts to search international law to determine what it has to say about the humane treatment of Prisoners of War: What Does International Law Say About Prisoners of War?

A vast amount of information on international law and related issues is available through the Internet.  This primer offers an initial introduction, particularly for IRCs and researchers not familiar with the subject. It is inevitably selective and does not cover the full spread of subjects, including trade or financial institutions.


At least eight excellent portals offer extensive gateways into international law:

Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute maintains a very useful gateway to national laws, trade law and international law. See also the World Legal Information Institute and Cornell’s Foreign and International Law Sources.

Also, the Edwin Ginn Library at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University has gathered an impressive array of International Resources. 

The Library Legal Law Exchange offers excellent resources for the study of International Law.

Guide to Electronic Resources for International Law forms part of the website of the American Society of International Law.  After an introductory section, the guide is divided into different subject areas e.g. human rights, international economic law, treaties and so on.  The guide has additional value because it not only provides extensive links through its subject headings but also includes a narrative for each entry, which helps to more readily identify appropriate sites. 

Also consult the Electronic Information System for International LawThis website is very well organized by topics and themes. Both of the above sites are very highly recommended.

Guide to Foreign and International Legal Databases, maintained by the New York University School of Law, provides access to a vast array of databases covering subjects from taxation, copyright to environmental, international, international trade, international criminal law and human rights. 


The websites of a few of the principal institutions of international law include the following:

United Nations  

This is the main UN website with links to others of importance, primarily through its international law link , through which one can access treaties, law of the sea, trade law, criminal tribunals, and a research guide to UN documents. Particularly useful is the UN database, which includes the Dag Hammarskjold Library online catalog, voting records and index to speeches.

International Court of Justice, which sits at The Hague, was set up in 1945 under the UN Charter and acts as a world court. Its website provides extensive information on the Court, its history, purpose, members, decisions, texts on key cases.

International Criminal CourtThe Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court was adopted in 1998 by a UN conference and opened for signature.  It has now received the required 60 ratifications and will enter into force on 1 July 2002.  It has been ratified by the UK but not the USA. The website is very detailed, providing overviews, ratification status, access to key documents, and associated bodies.


The question of human rights is now a central concern of international relations and international law. Websites abound and those below offer a useful introduction:

Amnesty International: this award winning website needs no introduction, this is the premier Human Rights organization in the field.  Website includes news, copies of reports and links to other websites.

Council of Europe Human Rights Web: this website provides public access to information about the Human Rights activities of the Council of Europe. It includes the European Court of Human Rights, case law, activities, and the texts of conventions.

Human Rights Internet (HRI): the HRI aims to offer human rights activists and organisations in particular, but also governments and international agencies, an information resource on human rights issues and the role of civil society. The website includes access to full text reports on various topics, including international law.  It also offers a range of subscription databases.  One of its most useful (free) tools is the Human Rights Internet Directory, a searchable database of human rights websites recorded by site context, features, geographical focus, key words and more.

Human Rights Library: a website maintained by the University of Minnesota with access to over 7,000 human rights documents on subjects ranging from treaties and UN documents to bibliographies and research guides, together with links to 3,600 other sites. Includes a section on treaties and other international instruments. Available in SPANISH.

Human Rights Watch: the largest human rights organization based in the United States, with worldwide links and offices in other countries, including London.  Its website again offers a huge resource, including country briefings, specific country reports and the full text of its World Report (currently 2002).

Interights: the International Center for the Legal Protection of Human Rights is an international human rights law centre established in 1982.  It aims to support and promote the development of legal protection for human rights and freedoms worldwide.  Its website includes databases on Commonwealth and international case law.  Also available is a lengthy and detailed analysis on 'Responding to September 11: The Framework of International Law' by the Legal Director of Interights, Helen Duffy. Maintains a section on International Case Law.

Some key documents are:

·        The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948

·        The European Convention of Human Rights in English


There has been a proliferation of U.S., Law School Journals.  Many have their own websites with content lists, though few have online texts.  Useful general websites for identifying law journals include:


The best single site for full text access is the European Journal of International Law that has complete access for Vols 1 (1990) to 9 (1998) and abstracts and selected full-text articles from 1999 onwards.


There are a range of other websites containing useful information and material on this topic:

Avalon Project at the Yale Law school giving access to a vast array of documents in law, history and diplomacy from the 18th to the 21st centuries e.g. the Monroe Doctrine, Balfour Declaration, UN Charter and so on.  It has them sorted by year, by major collection (e.g. U.S. multilateral treaties from 1864-1999), bibliography and a search facility. Excellent site which also includes a human rights archive.

Internet Law Library provides a useful backup to important documents and journals.

Law Reports on the Web is another website maintained by the Faculty of Law at the University of Cambridge, it gives access to a large number of reports divided into U.K. law and International Law Reports


U.S. Government: the official U.S. Government website with full and extensive links to all areas of US Law.

These are other valuable website from the State Department in relation to international law and international relations and official U.S. Policy on a wide range of international issues. The Office of the Legal Advisor at the U.S. State Department maintains its own website with access to Treaties in Force, Private International Law, International Claims and Investment Disputes and the Digest of International Law.