Intl law





International law is a body of rules recognized by states or nations as binding upon their mutual relations




International law is a body of rules recognized by states or nations as binding upon their mutual relations, including their relations with international organizations. International law is usually incorporated in agreements between sovereign states, and/or derived from such agreements.

The term "international law" can refer to two legal disciplines:

  • Public international law: it governs the relationship between states and international organisations, dealing with areas such as human rights, treaty law, the law of sea, international criminal law and international humanitarian law. 
  • Private international law - or conflict of laws - a set of rules of procedural law which determines which legal system governs and the law of which jurisdiction apply to a given legal dispute. These rules apply when a legal dispute has a cross border element such as a contract agreed by parties located in different States or when the cross border element exists in a multi-jurisdictional country.

International law can mainly be found in international agreements or conventions, in addition to a set of commonly recognized values, standards and principles, which do not necessarily have to be explicitly referred to in an agreement. International agreements can be bilateral (i.e. between two sovereign states) or multilateral (i.e. between more than two states). Very often, they are prepared and negotiated within an international organization such as the United Nations (UN), the Council of Europe and many others. An important source of international law is also the case law of international courts, as well Treaties and agreements.

There are various publicly available information sources on international law. Here is a non-exhaustive list:

The United Nations has also created the International Law Commission. Its task is to promote the progressive development of international law and its codification. To this end, it publishes studies and surveys, gathers precedents and elaborates proposals for new treaties. The International Law Commission's work has led to a number of important treaties and other key works of international law.

  • United National International Law Commission International Law Commission. Its task is to promote the progressive development of international law and its codification. To this end, it publishes studies and surveys, gathers precedents and elaborates proposals for new treaties. The International Law Commission's work has led to a number of important treaties and other key works of international law.

1. Treaties and Agreements of Ghana

The collection of the Treaties to which Ghana is a State Party include:























  • Working Environment (Air Pollution, Noise and Vibration) Convention, 1977

2. European Union Conventions related to corruption, human rights cybersecurity and terrorism

3. International Courts

Most international courts have a website providing access to their decisions and opinions. Hereafter, you find a non-exhaustive list of such websites: 

  1. Global
    1. International Court of Justice: ICJ- International Court of Justice: the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN), established by the Charter of the United Nations. The Court’s role is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorised United Nations organs and specialised agencies.
  1. International Criminal Court: ICC- International Criminal Court: an independent, permanent court that tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. 
  1. International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea: ITLOS- International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea: a court established by the United Nations Convention on the law of the sea. The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea is an independent judicial body established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to adjudicate disputes arising out of the interpretation and application of the Convention. The Tribunal is composed of 21 independent members, elected from among persons enjoying the highest reputation for fairness and integrity and of recognized competence in the field of the law of the sea.
  1. International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda: The United Nations Security Council established the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to "prosecute persons responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of Rwanda and neighbouring States, between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1994". The Tribunal is located in Arusha, Tanzania, and has offices in Kigali, Rwanda. Its Appeals Chamber is located in The Hague, Netherlands. An International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Trials (The Mechanism) has taken over the mandate of the ICTR. The Mechanism has assumed responsibility for a number of functions of the ICTR and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
  1. Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone : The Residual Special Court was established pursuant to an agreement signed between the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone on 11 August 2010. It was ratified by Parliament on 15 December 2011 and signed into law on 1 February 2012. The agreement stipulates that the RSCSL shall have its principal seat in Freetown, but shall carry out its functions at an interim seat in The Netherlands with a sub-office in Freetown for witness and victim protection and support. The RSCSL, like the SCSL, is funded by voluntary contributions from the international community, but the agreement permits it to seek alternative means of funding. The RSCSL has an oversight committee to assist in obtaining adequate funds and to provide advice and policy direction on non-judicial aspects of the Court. Unlike the Special Court, which at its busiest employed more than 400 staff in Freetown and The Hague, the RSCSL is a small body with about a dozen staff. The Act provides for a Chambers consisting of a President and, when necessary, a Trial Chamber and Appeals Chamber, along with the Prosecutor and the Registrar.
  1. International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia: The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was a United Nations court of law that dealt with war crimes that took place during the conflicts in the Balkans in the 1990s. During its mandate, which lasted from 1993 - 2017, it irreversibly changed the landscape of international humanitarian law, provided victims an opportunity to voice the horrors they witnessed and experienced, and proved that those suspected of bearing the greatest responsibility for atrocities committed during armed conflicts can be called to account. The Tribunal has authority to prosecute and try individuals on four categories of offences: grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva conventions, violations of the laws or customs of war, genocide and crimes against humanity. The ICTY has no authority to prosecute states for aggression or crimes against peace; these crimes are within the jurisdiction of The International Court of Justice. Pursuant to Article 1 of the ICTY Statute, the Tribunal has jurisdiction over persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia since 1991. The ICTY Statutealso states that the official position of an accused, whether as Head of State or Government or as a responsible Government official, does not relieve him of criminal responsibility nor mitigate punishment.
  1. Nuremberg War Crimes Trials: The Nuremberg trialswere a series of military tribunals held after Word War II by the Allied forces under international law and the laws of war The trials were most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, judicial, and economic leadership of Nazi Germany, who planned, carried out, or otherwise participated in the Holocaust and other war crimes. The trials were held in Nuremberg Germany, and their decisions marked a turning point between classical and contemporary international law. The first and best known of the trials was that of the major war criminals before the International Military Tribunal (IMT). It was described as "the greatest trial in history" by Sir Norman Birkett , one of the British judges present throughout. Held between 20 November 1945 and 1 October 1946, the Tribunal was given the task of trying 24 of the most important political and military leaders of the Third Reich. Primarily treated here is the first trial, conducted by the International Military Tribunal. Further trials of lesser war criminals were conducted under Control Council Law No. 10 at the U.S. Nuremberg Military Tribunal ( NMT) , which included the Doctor´s trial and the Judges`Trial
  1. Special Tribunal for Lebanon: The Special Tribunal for Lebanon is a tribunal of international character. The tribunal was established following a request by the government of Lebanon to the United Nations. The agreement between Lebanon and the UN was not ratified, and the UN brought its provisions into force through UN Security Council Resolution 1757. It is an independent, judicial organisation composed of Lebanese and international judges. It is neither a UN court nor part of the Lebanese judicial system. It does, however, try people under Lebanese criminal law. The tribunal is also the first of its kind to deal with terrorism as a discrete crime. The STL was inaugurated on 1 March 2009.
  1. United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials (UNAKART): United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials (UNAKRT) provides technical assistance to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). The ECCC is a domestic court supported with international staff, established in accordance with Cambodian law. Under the terms of Agreement between the United Nations and the Royal Government of Cambodia, the Extraordinary Chambers will bring to trial senior leaders of Democratic Kampuchea and those who were most responsible for the crimes and serious violations of Cambodian penal law, international humanitarian law and custom, and international conventions recognized by Cambodia, that were committed during the period from 17 April 1975 to 6 January 1979.
  1. Extraordinary Chambers of Cambodia : The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) is a special Cambodian court which receives international assistance through the United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials (UNAKRT). The court is also informally known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal or the Cambodia Tribunal. The Khmer Rouge regime took power on 17 April 1975 and was overthrown on 7 January 1979. At least 1.7 million people are believed to have died from starvation, torture, execution and forced labour during this period of 3 years, 8 months and 20 days. The end of the Khmer Rouge period was followed by a civil war. That war finally ended in 1998 when the Khmer Rouge political and military structures were dismantled. In 1997, the government requested the United Nations to assist in establishing a trial to prosecute the senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge. In 2001, the Cambodian National Assembly passed a law to create a court to try serious crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge period (1975-1979). This court is called the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia for the Prosecution of Crimes Committed during the Period of Democratic Kampuchea (Extraordinary Chambers or ECCC). The government of Cambodia insisted that, for the sake of the Cambodian people, the trial should be held in Cambodia using Cambodian staff and judges together with foreign personnel. The government of Cambodia invited international participation due to the weakness of the Cambodian legal system and the international nature of the crimes, as well as for assistance in meeting international standards of justice. An agreement with the United Nations, detailing how the international community would assist and participate in the Extraordinary Chambers, was ultimately reached in June 2003. While this special court was created by the Cambodian government and the United Nations, it is independent of them. It is a Cambodian court with international participation that applies international standards. The court can only prosecute two categories of alleged perpetrators for alleged crimes committed between 17 April 1975 and 6 January 1979:

1) Senior leaders of Democratic Kampuchea; and
2) Those believed to be most responsible for grave violations of national and international law. The Law on the Establishment of the Extraordinary Chambers as amended 

  1. Regional 
    1. African Court of Justice and Human Rights : The African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights (the Court) is a continental court established by African countries to ensure the protection of human and peoples’ rights in Africa. It complements and reinforces the functions of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. The Court was established by virtue of Article 1 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, (the Protocol) which was adopted by Member States of the then Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in June 1998. The Protocol came into force on 25 January 2004.
  1. AFRICAN COURT OF JUSTICE AND HUMAN RIGHTS (ACJHR) ( COURT OF JUSTICE OF THE AFRICAN UNION): The Court was originally intended to be the "principal judicial organ" of the African Union ( Protocol of the Court of Justice of the African Union Article 2.2) with authority to rule on disputes over interpretation of AU treaties. The Court has, however, never come into existence because the African Union has decided that it should be merged with the African Court on Human and Peoples's Rights to form a new court: the African Court of Justice and Human Rights (ACJHR). Underlying this decision was the concern at the growing number of AU institutions, which the AU could not afford to support. [1] A protocol to set up the Court of Justice was adopted in 2003, and entered into force in 2009. It was, however, superseded by a protocol creating the African Court of Justice and Human Rights. The merger protocol was adopted during the 11th African Union Summit in July 2008. The united court will be based in Arusha , Tanzania.
  1. European Court of Rights Rights: ECHR- European Court on Human Rights: the court established by the Council of Europe to ensure the observance of rights embodied in the European Convention on Human Rights. The database of the ECHR also contains case law information notes. Due to an increasing caseload, a full-time European Court of Human Rights was restructured and began operations in November 1998. This restructuring eliminated the Commission of Human Rights. Reports and decisions prior to the cessation of Commission activities in October 1999 can be located on the HUDOC database.
  1. European Court of Justice
  2. Inter-American Court of Human Rights : INTER-AMERICAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
  3. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
  4. EFTA Court: this court established by the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) fulfils the judicial function within the EFTA system, interpreting the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA) with regard to the EFTA States party to the Agreement. At present those EFTA States are Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
  1. Sub-Regional for Africa
    1. ECOWAS Court of Justice
    2. East African Court of Justice
    3. SADC Tribunalensures adherence to, and proper interpretation of the provisions of, the SADC Treaty and subsidiary instruments, and adjudicates upon disputes referred to it. It was established by the Protocol on the Tribunal, which was signed in Windhoek, Namibia during the 2000 Ordinary Summit, and was officially established on 18 August, 2005 in Gaborone, Botswana. The inauguration of the tribunal and the swearing in of members took place on 18 November, 2005 in Windhoek, Namibia where it is based. It consists of appointed judges from Member States.

Other databases and resources:

  • JURE, a database created by the European Commission, contains case law on jurisdiction in civil and commercial matters and on the recognition and enforcement of judgments in another State than the one where the judgment was passed. This includes case law on relevant international conventions (i.e. 1968 Brussels Convention, 1988 Lugano Convention) as well as EU and Member State case law). 
  • The World Legal Information Institute(a legal research facility developed collaboratively by several legal information institutes and other organisations): database and links on courts and case law

4. International Case Law

The international community has established a number of courts for solving disputes regarding international law. Their legal nature varies and the scope of jurisdiction and binding effect of their case law largely depends on the relevant founding act. Most international courts have a website providing access to their decisions and opinions.