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International law is the set of rules generally regarded and accepted as binding in relations between states and between nations. It serves as a framework for the practice of stable and organized international relations. International law differs from state-based legal systems in that it is primarily applicable to countries rather than to private citizens. National law may become international law when treaties delegate national jurisdiction to supranational tribunals such as the European Court of Human Rights or the International Criminal Court. Treaties such as the Geneva Conventions may require national law to conform to respective parts.
Much of international law is consent-based governance. This means that a state member is not obliged to abide by this type of international law, unless it has expressly consented to a particular course of conduct. This is an issue of state sovereignty. However, other aspects of international law are not consent-based but still are obligatory upon state and non-state actors such as customary international law and peremptory norms (jus cogens).
The term "international law" can refer to three distinct legal disciplines:
The two traditional branches of international law are:
The modern study of international law starts in the early 19th century, but its origins go back at least to the 16th century, and Alberico Gentili, Francisco de Vitoria and Hugo Grotius, the "fathers of international law." Several legal systems developed in Europe, including the codified systems of continental European states and English common law, based on decisions by judges and not by written codes. Other areas developed differing legal systems, with the Chinese legal tradition dating back more than four thousand years, although at the end of the 19th century, there was still no written code for civil proceedings. Some doubt the effectiveness of international law, as they see the implementation of international law as a policy option among others to tackle global dilemmas. They say that international law must be evaluated with other, possibly more effective, international law options.
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