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Foreign, Comparative, and International Law: International Law: Public

The Law of Nations

Public International Law (often referred to as simply "International Law") is the law of nations--the body of law that governs interactions between states qua states. Treaties, international tribunals, and human rights councils are all subject to principles of Public International Law.


International agreements, whether they are called treaties, conventions, executive agreements, exchange of notes, understandings, protocols, or otherwise, constitute the bulk of contemporary public international law. Research problems relating to treaties may be grouped into three broad categories:

  • Locating the text of the treaty.
  • Determining whether a particular treaty is in force, for what parties, and with what reservations.
  • Interpreting the text of the treaty.

Research Guides to Treaties

  • The ASIL Guide to Public International Law includes an introduction to treaty research, how to determine the status of treaties, and other treaty-related issues.
  • The site LLRX has two relevant research guides: one for researching treaties to which the U.S. is a party, and one for researching non-U.S. treaties.

Locating Treaties

  • A "treaty series" is an officially published collection of treaties and other international agreements. 
  • Find treaty series in the MLaw Catalog by conducting a keyword search for [country/organization] treaty series.

Some major treaty series in the MLaw collection are the following:

  • United Nations Treaty Series
  • League of Nations Treaty Series
  • Organization of American States Treaty Series
  • European Treaty Series
  • European Conventions and Agreements
  • Consolidated Treaty Series

International Courts and Tribunals

Major International Tribunals:

International Criminal Tribunals are established by the United Nations for the purpose of prosecuting war criminals. Five International Tribunals currently exist. Each Tribunal posts official documents on its respective website. Additionally, the MLaw Library collects material on each Tribunal for research purposes.

International Law Reports is the only publication which is entirely devoted to the regular and systematic reporting of decisions of international courts and arbitrators, and judgments of national courts, all translated into English. Cases are presented from a vast variety of courts and countries, including the International Court of Justice, Obsolete Court, Arbitration, United Nations Human Rights Committee, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Human Rights and Refugees

International human rights research involves a complex web of treaties, case law, reports, and other materials produced by nations and intergovernmental organizations. Begin your research with treatises, books, journal articles, or other secondary sources to identify what organizations, laws, statistics, and other documentation is relevant to your research.

The MLaw Library has a variety of resources to conduct your human rights research.

Related Books in Catalog