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Features of the Rule of Law - International law is a body of law complementary to the national law of individual states


International law is a body of law complementary to the national law of individual states, and in no way antagonistic to them. The "INTERNATIONAL ROL" (the ROL among nations) requires the respect of international obligations and, in this sense, corresponds to the domestic ROL writ in large.
Even in the international sphere, states are not likely to tolerate a complete freedom for every international actor: in the long term, a state, if alone, would lose the benefits and protections that international agreement can confer. In this respect, it doesn’t matter the fact that there is not an "international legislature”: an obligation becomes binding on a state even without a sort of national parliament: one of the main reasons why states do comply with international law is that they make the rules to suit themselves.

In addition, it has become more and more clear that some problems cannot be effectively regulated on a national basis: there are cross-border problems that call for cross-border solutions, which can only be provided by a coherent body of enforceable international rules. It is the case of the norms on genocide, cross-border criminal activities, protection of environment, but also human rights. In the latter case, international protection is significant for some reasons:
- there is wide acceptance of the values on which such protection is based;
- it is a "new" kind of protection, born after World War II;
- the link between human rights and ROL has been increasingly recognized;
- in this field, individuals can claim directly a violation (while in international law the subjects are usually the states).

One of the most relevant fields for international law is that of WAR, that has always been "the universal norm in human history”.

The Kellogg-Briand Pact 1928 was not able to effectively outlaw war; it was the aim of the UN Charter 1948, which forced its member states to settle their international disputes by peaceful means. There are also exceptions, provided for by Chapter VII, but they have to be managed by the Security Council. In other words, unilateral resort to war is replaced by collective decision-making in the Security Council on behalf of all member states.
In general, most transactions governed by international law are based on the strength of known and accepted rules. However, there are still some serious deficiencies of the international ROL:

- in some circumstances, some states want to "rewrite" the rules in order to meet the perceived exigencies of the political situation;

- the jurisdiction of the ICJ relies on consensual basis (cases come before the Court only if the parties agree). Maybe the request for an obligatory recourse to the ICJ in matters connected to the UN Charter and related issues is quite exaggerate for the moment, but this is a step that must be taken if the ROL is to become truly effective in this area.

In sum, the ROL requires that the challenges of modern word be faced through rules internationally agreed, internationally implemented and, if necessary, internationally enforced.

di Luca Porcella
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