International Legal Research

An introduction to researching public international law.

International Counts and Tribunals

In the Statute of the International Court of Justice, judicial decisions are not only listed later than conventions, custom, and general principles, they are explicity identified as "subsidiary":

subject to the provisions of Article 59, [the Court shall apply] judicial decisions and the teachings of the most highly qualified publicists of the various nations, as subsidiary means for the determination of rules of law. Article 38, section 1(d).

Article 59 states that decisions of the International Court of Justice have "no binding force except between the parties and in respect of that particular case."

The Restatement of the Law (Third) of Foreign Relations Law of the United States identifies judicial decisions as "evidence" of international law. Section 103. The Comment to Section 103 clarifies this with a reference the Article 59 of the Statute, which states that an ICJ decision "has no binding force except between the parties and in respect of that particular case." However, the Comment also notes that the International Court of Justice and other permanent international courts do pay considerable attention to past decisions. Section 103, Comment b.


The jurisprudence of the following permanent courts are likely to be considered:

The International Court of Justice
Web Access: www.icj-cij.org/ 

  • Reports of Judgments, Advisory Opinions and Orders (Decisions), 1951 -
    Law Stacks, Second floor KZ214 .I58
     
  • Pleadings, Oral Arguments, Documents (Records and Briefs)
    Law Stacks, Second floor   KZ218 .P54 

The European Court of Human Rights
Web Access: http://www.echr.coe.int/


The Inter-American Court of Human Rights
Web Access: http://www.corteidh.or.cr/

 

African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights
Web Access: http://en.african-court.org/


Also to be considered are decisions by the predecessor to the International Court of Justice:

The Permanent Court of International Justice

(League of Nations)
Web Access: http://www.worldcourts.com/pcij/eng/

  • Series A, Collection of judgments
    Law Stacks, Second floor   KZ208 .A6 Ser.A  
  • Series B, Collection of advisory opinions
    Law Stacks, Second floor  KZ208 .A6 Ser.B  

     
  • Series A/B, Judgments, orders and advisory opinions
    Law Stacks, Second floor  KZ208 .A6 Ser.A/B  

     
  • Series C, Acts and documents relating to judgements and advisory opinions given by the Court
    Law Stacks, Second floor   KZ208 .A6 Ser.C
     
  • Series D, Statute and rules of court
    Law Stacks, Second floor  KZ209 .A24 Ser.D

     
  • Series F, First general index of the publications of the court
    Law Stacks, Second floor KZ208 .A6 Ser.F

(Also available on Hein Online, Foreign and International Law Resources)


and decisions by the International Criminal Court and tribunals:


International Criminal Court
Web Access: 
http://www.icc-cpi.int/
http://www.un.org/icc/
 

Annotated Leading Cases of International Criminal Tribunals
Law Stacks, Second floor KZ1203.A2 A55

Web Access: 

(See also the Project on International Courts and Tribunals http://www.pict-pcti.org/)

  • Tokyo Major War Crimes Trial
    Law Stacks, Second floor  KZ1181 I57 1998

     
  • Nuremberg Trials; Court of Appeals Reports
    Law Stacks, Second floor  KK51.4 1949

     
  • Law Reports of Trials of War Criminals
    Law Stacks, Second floor KZ1174 L39 1997


The Restatement explicitly mentions decisions of international arbitral tribunals as evidence of international law:

Permanent Court of Arbitration

Reports of International Arbitral Awards
Law Stacks, Second floor KZ6124 R475
(also available as part of Hein Online)
 
Oxford Reports on International Law is a subscription database which includes decisions from International Courts of General Jurisdiction, on International Criminal Law, and International Human Rights Law.

Decisions of National Courts on International Issues

Neither the Statute of the International Court of Justice nor the Restatement of Foreign Relations Law of the United States rules out consideration of national court decisions on matters of international law. Some sources of such decisions are:
 

  • International Law Reports, 1956 -
    Law Stacks, Second floor KZ199 .I58
    Also available in electronic format; faculty and student access via OSCAR
    A collection of cases from national jurisdictions, plus many international tribunals and courts
     
  • American International Law Cases, 1783 - 1989
    Law Stacks, Second floor KZ238.A2 A45
    Multiple series containing decisions of federal and state courts of the United States, which involve questions of public international law.

also for the United States: topical digests such as the United States Supreme Court Digest, West's Federal Practice Digest, American Law Reports (A.L.R.) and case law databases on LexisNexis and Westlaw
 


Oxford Reports on International Law is a subscription database which includes decisions on international law from domestic courts; faculty and student access is via OSCAR

Heafey Law Library Research Team