What are the General Principles of International Law?


Wooden justice gavel and block with brass


The Permanent Mission of Poland held a meeting to discuss the definition and usage of general principles of law and their role in international courts. H.E. Boguslaw Winid prefaced the seminar by speaking to Poland’s desire for peaceful conflict resolution and the country’s bid for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council. Mr. Wladyslaw Czaplinski began the discussion and argued that many scholars and practitioners in international law have not agreed upon a definition for its general principles. Ms. Marija Dordeska expanded by claiming that the general principles have three characteristics: substantive, regulating the conduct of actors, procedural, regulating states and justices in the procedure, and interpretive, guiding international tribunals. Additionally, Ms. Dordeska expressed that international courts and tribunals should identify the general principles. The ICJ (International Court of Justice) statute should reflect them.

Ms. Neha Jain also expressed a need for clearly defined general principles. She stated that unclear definitions can lead to many, or conflicting, verdicts. Two competing concepts, municipal and natural law were discussed. Using principles of domestic law, municipal law is used as a proxy for state consent at the international level. Natural law functions on its acknowledgement that human nature is rational at its basis. Ms. Jain argued that due to these subjective definitions, international courts should be wary of using them in concrete actions regarding international law. Mr. Christopher Waters followed by pointing out the inconsistencies in the use of general principles. However, he stated that general principles are not as problematic as the other panelists claimed them to be, as they are seldom used in reality.

Meeting: “General Principles of Law, Judicial Theory or Everyday Practice of International Courts?” Organized by the Permanent Mission of Poland

Date/Location: 26 October, 2016; 13:15 to 14:30; Conference Room 6

Speakers: H.E. Boguslaw Winid, Permanent Representative of Poland to the United States; Wladyslaw Czaplinski, Director of the Institute of Legal Sciences; Marija Dordeska, Doctor of Juridical Science; Neha Jain, Professor at the University of Minnesota Law School; Christopher Waters, Dean of Law at the University of Windsor

Written By: Anna Prisco, WIT Representative


The enforcement of international judicial and arbitral decisions

International_Peace_Day_logoThe meeting opened with the moderator, Cabactulan, mentioning that there is an increase in international peace and security amongst international communities. Professor Murphy discussed the seven trends in interstate judicial and arbitral decisions. The first trend is the increase/resurgence in court and tribunal decisions (case law) during the post cold war era. The second trend recognizes that investment disputes are now dealt with private investors bringing claims against opposing states themselves. Instead of the investor’s state getting involved and dealing with interstate arbitration, the investors are making the claims and taking pressure off of government officials.

The third trend displays, the continuance of states’ compliance with interstate judicial and arbitral decisions. Professor Murphy stated that most states care about and believe in the law. So, although a state may not like a ruling, the state will usually respect it. Murphy provides the counterpoint that some courts might influence their own decisions to appease both states involved, to ensure compliance. The fourth trend exposes the abandoned use of the Security Council to enforce judicial or arbitral decisions. The council only has the power to agree with a judgment; they cannot enforce one legally. The fifth trend demonstrates the abandonment of using the International Court of Justice to enforce arbitral decisions. Following, the sixth trend outlines the continuing impediments of enforcing rulings made by international courts and the potential of involving national courts.

The last trend focuses on the increased use of countermeasures to induce compliance. A countermeasure is when a wrongful act is committed by a state, but it’s excused because the other state did something wrong in the first place. The professor concluded that the steady level of compliance in interstate judgments has exerted less stress on governments. When states fail to comply with a ruling or award, there has been more reliance on unilateral self-help.

Meeting: “The enforcement of international judicial and arbitral decisions” (organized by the Permanent Mission of the Philippines)
Date: October 29th, 2014
Location: Conference Room 6, UN Headquarters, New York
Speakers: Patricia Roberts Harris Research Professor of Law Sean David Murphy, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Republic of the Philippines Libran N. Cabactulan, Philippines Representative Eduardo A. De Vega, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of the Republic of the Philippines Irene Susan Navtivdad, and Philippines Representative Acting Director of the Office of Legal Affairs in the Department of Foreign Affairs Igor G. Bailen.
Written By WIT Representatives: Ellie Guner and Paige Stokols

Edited by WIT Representative: Aslesha Dhillon