International law or the law of nations refers to laws that govern the conduct of independent nations in their relationships with one another. It differs from other legal systems in that it primarily concerns provinces rather than private citizens. In other words it is that body of law which is composed for its greater part of the principles and rules of conduct which States feel themselves bound to observe, and therefore, do commonly observe in their relations with each other and with international institutions or organizations, and certain foreign nationals.
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- The law of nations is founded upon reason and justice, and the rules of conduct governing individual relations between citizens or subjects of a civilized state are equally applicable as between enlightened nations. The considerations that international law is without a court for its enforcement and that obedience to its commands practically depends upon good faith instead of upon the mandate of a superior tribunal only give additional sanction to the law itself and brand any deliberate infraction of it not merely as a wrong but as a disgrace. A man of true honor protects the unwritten word which binds his conscience more scrupulously, if possible, than he does the bond a breach of which subjects him to legal liabilities, and the United States, in aiming to maintain itself as one of the most enlightened nations, would do its citizens gross injustice if it applied to its international relations any other than a high standard of honor and morality.
- Grover Cleveland, Message to Congress withdrawing a treaty for the annexation of Hawaii from consideration. (18 December 1893); A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents 1789-1897 (1896 - 1899) edited by James D. Richardson, Vol. IX, pp. 460-472.
- Orwell's 1984 explained that "the special function of certain Newspeak words … was not so much to express meanings as to destroy them." During the week after U.S. missiles hit sites in Sudan and Afghanistan, some Americans seemed uncomfortable. A vocal minority even voiced opposition. But approval was routine among those who had learned a few easy Orwellian lessons... At all times, Americans must be kept fully informed about who to hate and fear... When terrorists attack, they’re terrorizing. When we attack, we’re retaliating. When they respond to our retaliation with further attacks, they’re terrorizing again... No matter how many times they’ve lied in the past, U.S. officials are credible in the present. When they... [say] the bombed pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum was making ingredients for nerve gas, that should be good enough for us.... Might doesn’t make right — except in the real world, when it’s American might. Only someone of dubious political orientation would split hairs about international law.
- The European Union and many of its countries, which used to take initiatives in the United Nations for peaceful settlements of conflict, are now one of the most important war assets of the U.S./NATO front. Many countries have also been drawn into complicity in breaking international law through U.S./U.K./NATO wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and so on. It is for this reason that I believe NATO should be abolished and that steps be taken towards disarmament through non-violent action and civil resistance. The means of resistance are very important. Our message that armed groups, militarism and war do not solve our problems but aggravate them challenges us to use new ways and that is why we need to teach the science of peace at every level of society.
- The European Union and many of its countries, which used to take initiatives in the United Nations for peaceful settlements of conflict, are now one of the most important war assets of the U.S./NATO front. Many countries have also been drawn into complicity in breaking international law through U.S./U.K./NATO wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and so on.
- What does torture have in common with genocide, slavery and wars of aggression? They are all “jus cogens.” That’s Latin for “higher law” or “compelling law.” This means that under international law, no country can ever pass a law that allows torture. There can be no immunity from criminal liability for violation of a “jus cogens” prohibition. The United States has always prohibited torture — in our Constitution, laws, executive orders, judicial decisions and treaties. When we ratify a treaty, it becomes part of US law under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for torture,” the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which the US ratified, states unequivocally. Torture is considered a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions, also ratified by the United States. Geneva classifies grave breaches as war crimes. The US War Crimes Act and 18 USC, sections 818 and 3231, punish torture, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, and inhuman, humiliating or degrading treatment. And the Torture Statute criminalizes the commission, attempt, or conspiracy to commit torture outside the United States.
- Marjorie Cohn in State-Sanctioned Torture in the Age of Trump, by Marjorie Cohn, Truthout (23 January 2017)
- Predictably, without any proof whatsoever, and in violation of international law and the United Nations Charter, the US, the UK and France criminally attacked a country, Syria that had not attacked them.
- These three countries are acting with the barbarism that their vast military arsenals makes not only possible, but tempting... (the scandalous contemporary record of the USA in the use of assassinations of foreign leaders, and their subjects would consume a vast library).
- Suffice it to mention the more than 23 assassination attempts against Cuban President, Fidel Castro, to which the CIA has admitted, since 1950 the targets of the USA’s assassination attempts have included the Congo’s leader, Patrice Lumumba, Indonesia’s President Sukarno, the democratically elected President of Chile, Salvador Allende, Chilean General Rene Schneider, Bolivian President Torres, murdered in Argentina, Chilean General Carlos Prats, to mention only a few of the targets of assassination by the “intelligence” agencies of the USA.
- The Prosecutor mandated to oversee the Occupied Palestinian Territory for the International Criminal Court (ICC) stated on Wednesday that her office is keeping “a close eye” on the planned demolition of a Palestinian village in the West Bank by Israeli authorities, warning that, according to international law, it could constitute a “war crime”...the village is one of dozens affected by an Israeli settlement reorganization plan... “It bears recalling, as a general matter,” said the ICC Prosecutor, “that extensive destruction of property without military necessity and population transfers in an occupied territory constitute war crimes under the Rome Statute.”
- We are concerned about what the US and its closest allies are doing with respect to Venezuela, brazenly violating all imaginable norms of international law and actually openly pursuing the policy aimed at overthrowing the legitimate government in that Latin American country... Together with other responsible members of the international community, we will do everything to support President Maduro’s legitimate government in upholding the Venezuelan constitution and employing methods to resolve the crisis that are within the constitutional framework... We would like to figure out what the international community could do to prevent another blatant violation of international law and violent regime change... This is what I discussed yesterday with the Iranian foreign minister, who - just like us - wants to find an opportunity for external players to prove themselves useful to the Venezuelan people.
- Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in US policy aimed at toppling Venezuela’s government, TASS' (29 January 2019)
- Your national representatives... want to invade and intervene in Venezuela – they say... in the name of democracy and freedom. But it’s not like that... is as false as the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq... This complex multiform aggression is carried out with total impunity and in clear violation of the Charter of the United Nations, which expressly outlaws the threat or use of force, among other principles... for the sake of peace and the friendly relations between the Nations....
- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that Washington's threats to Venezuela's military violated the United Nations Charter, and are representative of direct interference in the state's internal affairs.
- Washington’s attack on Venezuela is in violation of established international law. [UN investigator Alfred-Maurice] Zayas reports that an atmosphere of intimidation accompanied the mission, attempting to pressure him into a predetermined matrix. He received letters from American-financed NGOs asking him not to proceed on his own, dictating to him the report he should write... As Washington’s sanctions and currency manipulations constitute geopolitical crimes, Zayas asks what reparations are due to the victims of sanctions. He recommends that the International Criminal Court investigate Washington’s coercive measures that can cause death from malnutrition and lack of medicines and medical equipment.
- Years ago, when I investigated the particular set of crimes mentioned above that were carried out by U.S. military intelligence personnel in Vietnam, I found that only three of the soldiers involved were even punished. And by punished, I mean that the three received fines or reductions in rank. None served any prison time. One of the admitted torturers I spoke with was still unrepentant. He explained to me that, were he placed in the same situation again, he would do exactly the same things. And why wouldn’t he? You don’t find Americans in the dock at the International Criminal Court (ICC). But if the Trump administration has its way...the ICC’s judges and prosecutors might be the ones who find themselves charged and -- though it's a stretch of the imagination -- behind bars. And given what we know about the U.S. prison system, that might also mean finding themselves at risk of torture.
- TomDispatch: Tomgram: Rebecca Gordon, Turning Our Backs on Nuremberg, (26 March 2019)
- The problem the Great Powers now faced (after world war II) was how to create a process that the world would consider something more than vengeance masquerading as righteousness, something more than “victors’ justice.” The solution was to demonstrate that their prosecutions had a basis in the Geneva Conventions and other international treaties -- in, that is, the already existing laws of war. In the process of designing those prosecutions, they consolidated and advanced the meaning and power of international law itself, a concept particularly needed in a postwar world of atomic weapons and a looming U.S.-Soviet conflict. Three-quarters of a century and many wars and weapon systems later, enforceable international law still remains humanity’s best hope for adjudicating past war crimes and preventing future ones -- but only if great nations like the United States do not declare themselves exceptions to the rule of law.
- TomDispatch: Tomgram: Rebecca Gordon, Turning Our Backs on Nuremberg, (26 March 2019)
- On March 18th, Rodrigo Duterte’s Philippines became the second country to leave the ICC, where it, like the U.S., is being investigated for possible crimes -- in its case, against its own people. As the Washington Post reports, the country is “under preliminary examination [by the ICC] for thousands of [domestic drug war] killings since Duterte rose to the presidency in 2016.”
In its menacing rejection of the court, the Trump administration is turning its back on the system of international law and justice the United States helped establish at Nuremberg. The rule of law must not hold only, as hotelier Leona Helmsley once said about taxes, for “the little people.” If Donald Trump had truly wanted to “make America great again,” he would have recognized that international law is not just for the little countries. The greater a world power, the more consequential is its submission to the rule of law. The attacks of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo on the ICC, however, simply represent a new spate of lawless actions from a lawless administration in an increasingly lawless era in Washington.
- TomDispatch: Tomgram: Rebecca Gordon, Turning Our Backs on Nuremberg, (26 March 2019)
- The reason why the U.S. Government must be prosecuted for its war-crimes against Iraq is that they are so horrific and there are so many of them, and international law crumbles until they become prosecuted and severely punished for what they did. We therefore now have internationally a lawless world (or “World Order”) in which “Might makes right,” and in which there is really no effective international law, at all. This is merely gangster “law,” ruling on an international level... The seriousness of this international war crime is not as severe as those of the Nazis were, but nonetheless is comparable to it... On 15 March 2018, Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J.S. Davies headlined at Alternet, “The Staggering Death Toll in Iraq” and wrote that “our calculations, using the best information available, show a catastrophic estimate of 2.4 million Iraqi deaths since the 2003 invasion,” and linked to solid evidence, backing up their estimate.... On 6 February 2020, BusinessInsider bannered “US taxpayers have reportedly paid an average of $8,000 each and over $2 trillion total for the Iraq war alone”, and linked to the academic analysis that supported this estimate. The U.S. regime’s invasive war, which the Bush gang perpetrated against Iraq, was also a crime against the American people (though Iraqis suffered far more from it than we did).
- Bush’s successors, Obama and Trump, failed to press for Bush’s trial on these vast crimes, even though the American people had ourselves become enormously victimized by them, though far less so than Iraqis were. Instead, Bush’s successors have become accessories after the fact, by this failure to press for prosecution of him and his henchmen regarding this grave matter.
The actual crime, of invading and militarily occupying a country which had posed no threat to the national security of the invader, was ignored, and the conclusion was that “the situation did not appear to meet the required threshold of the Statute” (which was only “Willful killing or inhuman treatment of civilians” and which ignored the real crime, which was “aggressive war” or “the crime of aggression” — the crime for which Nazis had been hanged at Nuremberg).
Furthermore, no charges whatsoever against the U.S. Government (the world’s most frequent and most heinous violator of international law) were considered. In other words: the International Criminal Court is subordinate to, instead of applicable to, the U.S. regime. Just like Adolf Hitler had repeatedly made clear that, to him, all nations except Germany were dispensable and only Germany wasn’t, Barack Obama repeatedly said that “The United States is and remains the one indispensable nation”, which likewise means that every other nation is “dispensable.” The criminal International Criminal Court accepts this, and yet expects to be respected.
- Quotes reported in James William Norton-Kyshe's The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 105-106.
- Writers on international law . . . cannot make the law … it must have received the assent of the nations who are to be bound by it. This assent may be express … or may be implied from established usage.
- Sir Alexander Cockburn, 12th Baronet, C.J., The Queen v. Keyn; "The Franconia" (1876), 2 L. R. Ex. D. 202.
- International law is part of the common law.
- Pigott, B., Attorney General v. Sillem and others, " The Alexandra" (1864), 12 W. R. 258.
- International law, like the moral law, is part of the law of England, but only to the extent that the Courts will not help those that break it.
- Sir Frederick Pollock, 1st Baronet, Attorney-General v. Sillem and others, "The Alexandra " (1864), 12 W. R. 258.
- In questions of international law we should not depart from any settled decisions, nor lay down any doctrine inconsistent with them.
- William Wood, 1st Baron Hatherley, L.C., Udny v. Udny (1869), L. R. 1 Sc. & Div. Ap. Ca. 454.
- A great part of the law of nations stands upon the usage and practice of nations. It is introduced, indeed, by general principles: but it travels with those general principles only to a certain extent: and, if it stops there, you are not at liberty to go further, and to say, that mere general speculations would bear you out in a further progress— thus, for instance, on mere general principles it is lawful to destroy your enemy; and mere general principles make no great difference as to the manner by which this is to be effected; but the conventional law of mankind, which is evidenced in their practice, does make a distinction, and allows some, and prohibits other, modes of destruction.
- Sir W. Scott, "The Flad Oyen" (1799), 1 C. Rob. 140.
- The voluntary law of nations derives its force from the presumed consent of nations, the conventional from their express consent; the consuetudinary from their tacit consent.
- Wolfus, "Jus Gentium" (Prolegomena), § 25.
- Charter of the United Nations
- Crimes against humanity
- Crimes Against Humanity Initiative
- International Criminal Court
- Rule of law
- War crimes