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What are the Sources of international law?

International law is the name of a body of rules which regulate the conduct of the States in their intercourse with one another. In other words, law is the name for the body of customary and treaty rules which are considered legally binding by civilized states in their intercourse with each other.

Thus the question here is what are the sources of international law?

Article 38(1) of the Statute of the International Court of Justice directs the International Court of Justice to apply the following while rendering an award OR opinion in those cases which are brought before it;
  1. International treaties
  2. International custom, as evidence of a general practice accepted at law
  3. General principles of law recognized by civilized States
  4. Judicial decisions and teachings of most qualified publicists of various States as subsidiary means for determination of rules of law

Thus, we can broadly classify the Sources of international law as follows;
  1. Custom as a source of international law
  2. Treaties as a source of international law
  3. Judicial decisions as a source of international law
  4. Works of Jurists and Determination of the organs of international organizations as a source of international law General principles of law as a source of international law

Though most of the writers and thinkers of international law does not consider or include the “general principles of law” as a source of law. However, it should be noted that, even the International Court of Justice while rendering decisions in various cases came before it, took recourse to “general principles of law”.

Thus, even the general principles of law shall be treated as a source of international law.


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