International Law Glossary and TermsThis collection provides some commonly used words encountered in international law and used within this website. Complete definitions and latin translations can be found through the comprehensive reference resources listed to the left.
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International Law Terms
Friend of the court
Legal document filed with the court by a neutral party generally advocating a particular legal position or interpretation. The plural form is amici curiae.
The term usually indicates a technical or administrative legal instrument dealing with economic, cultural, scientific, and technical issues. Agreement is also used to denote a regional legal instrument that is part of the implementing framework under a larger treaty. See the UN explanation of how an agreement differs from a treaty.
The principle by which the courts of one jurisdiction may consent to the laws or decisions of another. The comity of nations refers to the recognition accorded by one nation to the laws and institutions of another.
The term is used interchangeably with treaty, but it can also have a specific meaning as a treating binding a broad number of nations. See the UN explanation of how a convention can differ from a treaty.
In fact, in reality
Existing in fact.
By right, lawful
A situation or condition that is based on a matter of law, such as those detailed in ratified treaties.
In international humanitarian law, genocide is considered unique because of the special intent to destroy in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.
EX PROPRIO VIGORE
By its own strength / of its own force
A law or a treaty may be binding ex proprio vigore, or on its own. If an international law is not binding ex proprio vigore in domestic law, then legislative action is needed. A treaty that requires domestic legislation is referred to as a non-self-executing treaty.
The court is convenient to hear a case and has jurisdiction. The doctrine of forum non conveniens ("inconvenient forum") allows a court to refurse to adjudicate a case on grounds of inconvenience.
IN PARI DELICTO
One party is as much at fault as the opposing party.
IN PARI MATERIA
On like subject matter; same manner
Typically used in regards to statutes which relate the same thing or person.
Against the person
Jurisdiction over the person of an individual.
Among other things
Used to indicate partial disclosure of details, facts, statements, etc. extracted from a whole.
INTER ARMA SILENT LEGES
In time of war, the laws are silent
INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE
Also sometimes referred to as the World Court. It is the primary judicial branch of the United Nations. See also a brief summary of the court.
The set of rules and legal instruments regarded and accepted as binding agreements between nations. International law is typically divided into public international law and private international law.
By the fact itself
Example: when a State joins the United Nations, the nation becomes an ipso facto party to the International Court of Justice, since the ICJ Statute is embodied in the UN Charter . However, UN member states are not ipso facto parties to the ICC, which involves ratification of the Rome Statute separate from the UN Charter. See ipso jure.
By the law itself
Examples: the ratification of a treaty by a State shall ipso jure bind that State to the obligations of that treaty. See ipso facto.
Law or the body of law
JUS AD BELLUM
Right to War
When and under what conditions is war ever justifiable? Jus ad bellum sets the boundaries for the use of force. War was denounced in the 1919 Covenant of the League of Nations and the 1928 Treaty of Paris (Briand-Kellogg Pact). The UN Charter adopted in 1945 states: "All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations." Article 2(4). The Charter authorizes the use of force in self defense. Article 51. See Chapter VII and Chapter VIII for more provisions. Compare jus ad bellum (right to use force) with jus in bello (conduct during war).
Universal peremptory norms, while not defined in any treaty, include those "higher laws" which no country may disregard. If part of a treaty violates jus cogens, then the entire treaty invalidated. See Articles 53 and 64 of the UN Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT). Generally, six types of crime rise to the level of jus cogens: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, crimes of aggression, slavery, piracy, and torture. The first four are included in Article 5 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The law of nations
JUS GENTIUM PRIVATUM
Private International Law
JUS GENTIUM PUBLICUM
Public International Law
JUS IN BELLO
Justice in War
These principles govern the conduct of parties during the law of war and armed conflict, and in a broader sense define the rights and obligations of neutral parties. The basic legal frameworks include, but are not limited to: the 1907 Hague Conventions and Regulations; Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the 1977 Protocols I and II; the 1925 Geneva Gas Protocol; the 1954 Hague Cultural Property Convention; the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention; the 1980 Conventional Weapons Convention; and the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention. See also jus ad bellum.
Law of the place
The notion that the rights to a legal proceeding are governed by the law of the place where those rights arose.
MALE CAPTUS, BENE DETENTUS
Wrongly captured, properly detained
Commonly used in reference to abductions and irregular renditions. "Wrongly captured" refers to the removal of a person from one jurisdiction to another jurisdiction, such as from one country to another country, without bilateral consent. Absent a protest or demand from the originating country to return the person, the person may be "properly detained" and tried in the new jurisdiction.
MALUM IN SE
An act that is wrong by its nature, regardless of specific prohibition against it.
Prohibited, as by law
An act that is wrong because it is expressly prohibited by law.
NUNC PRO TUNC
Now for then
Refers to actions that may be taken with retroactive effect.
PACTA SUNT SERVANDA
Pacts must be respected
A basic and central principle of international treaty law and detailed in Article 26 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties: "Every treaty in force is binding upon the parties to it and must be performed by them in good faith."
By the court
An opinion written by the court with no identified author.
By its own motion
Acting with one's own initiative.
By its own force
A protocol to a treaty can clarify terms, add additional text as amendments, and establish new obligations. These new obligations can be quantitative targets for nations to achieve. See the UN explanation of how a protocol extends a treaty.
The formal acceptance of the rights and obligations of a treaty. If the treaty has entered into force, the treaty thereafter becomes legally binding to parties that have ratified the treaty.
REBUS SIC STANTIBUS
At this point of affairs
Under Article 62 of the UN Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT), a party may be able to modify or terminate a treaty due to an unforeseeable and fundamental change of circumstances. This principle cannot be used for a treaty defining geographical boundaries and cannot be invoked as the result of a breach of a treaty. See the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros Project (Hungary v. Slovakia, ICJ)(applying Article 62).
Belonging to everyone / law of the commons
Typically used to refer to a territorial category for property and lands incapable of being owned, such as the high seas and outer space.
A thing decided
A common law doctrine holding that an adjudicated matter cannot be litigated again by another court.
A self-executing treaty may be binding ex proprio vigore, or on its own. If an international law requires domestic legislation, the treaty is referred to as a non self-executing treaty.
A party that has signed an agreement. In regards to a treaty, a signatory is not yet legally bound by the treaty. Instead, a signatory agrees to an obligation not to defeat the object and purpose of a signed treaty. See ratification.
A sovereign state is an independent and self-governing nation with the right to control the land, laws, and governance located within its territorial boundaries.
To stand by things decided
The doctrine under which courts adhere to precedent on questions of law.
IN STATU NASCENDI
In its original form / in birth status / being just born
Under international law, this term generally is used to refer to a nascent state or a political entity seeking recognition of statehood. It also is used to refer to emergent laws, rules, or principles of customary international law.
State succession applies when a new state is formed from territory once ruled by another sovereign. Essentially, a new state replaces a former state through annexation, union, dissolution, or separation. Partial succession occurs when a sovereign state partly loses its independence or when a partially controlled state becomes fully independent. The criteria for statehood is controversial, with political and legal divisions over which criteria are declaratory versus determinative of the formation of a legitimate state. Some criteria traditionally considered include: a defined territory, a permanent population, a government recognized by that population, the capacity to enter into relations with other states, and recognition by other states. See also the Vienna Convention on Succession of States in Respect of Treaties and Vienna Convention on Succession of States in Respect of State Property, Archives and Debts.
Empty land / land of no one
Typically used to refer to a territorial category for land that is not occupied but capable of being occupied.
A formal agreement entered into by two or more nations. See the UN explanation for terms used in the titles of treaties, such as "Convention," "Agreement," "Protocol," and "Charter."
Typically used to refer to a territorial category for land that is not subject to the sovereignty of any state because of some special status.
An African term loosely translated to mean "humanity towards others." Ubuntu or "Bantu" law embodies important African cultures values, such as the restoration of equilibrium, reconciliation, and formative justice derived from the community.
Another name for the International Court of Justice. See also a brief summary of the court.
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This article is the extended address by Josť E. Alvarez, the Herbert and Rose Rubin Professor of International Law at New York University School of Law, at the University of Minnesota Law School's conference on "International Economic Law in a Time of Change." Alvarez relects upon and rebuts a collection of papers on supra-nationalism presented at the conference. He argues that states, as sovereign entities, are making a comeback. The full-text is available online for free.
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