Concept today – International law should be understood as the system of treaties and norms governing international relations between sovereign states, as well as creating obligations of varied natures to its subjects and certain organizations, such as the UN and the ICJ.

Traditional concept excludes individuals and juridical persons.


International disputes – Dispute is a disagreement of fact or law between two or more parties.
Municipal Law
Private international law
Public international law

Sources of law

Article 38 statute of the ICJ:

a) international conventions.
b) international custom, as evidence of a general practice accepted as law.
c) general principles of law recognised by civilised nations.
d) subject to article 59, decisions and legal doctrine.
e) Ex aequo et bono Article 59 – The Decision of the ICJ has no binding force except between the parties in respect to a particular case.

Vienna Convention

26 Pacta sunt servanda and the principle of good faith in international agreements 27 Sovereign state cannot invoke its internal law as an international legal justification for failing to perform its obligations under a treaty.

Hierarchy of treaties

rationae personae


intrinsic superiority intrinsic inferiority

rationae materiae

History of the System


From January 1 1995

220 cases


to January 2001




definitive decisions



settled or inactive



under way



51 cases

3 developing against developing 17 developed as plaintiffs against developing 8 developing as plaintiffs against developed 23 developed against developed

of the 8 cases developing as plaintiffs against developed

5 cases lost

by developing countries


3 cases won

of the 23 cases developed countries as plaintiffs 16 cases lost by developing countries 6 cases balanced result 1 case won by a developing country


Legal Nature In general adversarial or contradictory in the WTO diplomatic "not contentions" objective "to secure a positive solution to the dispute".

Recommendations rather than rulings


Terminology Ad-hoc Panel Procedural Lacunae Bobbio: incomplete – incoherent Lacunae  déni de justice or non liquet (judicial economy)  moot  preliminary issues: excess of jurisdiction conflict of treaties locus standi – evidence – burden of proof – participation of lawyers – joinder of defendants – joinder of plaintiffs – remand Other problems Execution removal compensation retaliation not self-executing Standard of review Confidentiality – consultations governance – democratic controls Amicus Curiae 4.- OPERATIONAL VICES Secretariat Scope DSU 3.2. – The ruling of the DSB cannot add to or diminish the rights and obligations under the covered agreements. – To preserve rights and obligations of member in accordance with international law In practice case law "stare decisis" Derogation India Indonesia Brazil Amicus Curiae Burden of Proof Lawyers Standard of Review (from dumping to safeguards) Judicial economy (déni de justice) – India Promise as execution (USA) 301 Duty of Co-operation (Canada) Leather (Australia) Reform of the DSU 1) Consultations 2) Panel Procedures 3) AB Procedures 4) Implementation and relief 5) Case law 6) Developing countries 7) Third Parties and Amicus Curiae