By

Soha Baig

Why does national law (Municipal Law of each country) or regional law (European Union Law) seem more substantive and solid in comparison to International Law? Why does the European Court of Justice or any national court’s decision contain higher relevance in comparison to an International Court of Justice’s one? Or perhaps they carry equal weight, however International Law is not as relevant to an average person as much as regional or national legal customs and conventions are? Essentially, what is uncontestable is the fact that: International Law has been understood as a category of social sciences, rather than as a pure form of law. But why is this so?

Why International Law is seen more as a social science
International Law differs from what is mainly an understanding of law. Law is seen as a legal binary, according to which any act should be avoided, but also another one enforced. While national and regional laws are quantifiable through a fixed code or convention, International Law appeals more so to customs and behaviors between its actors, hence it is classifiable more as a social science rather than a legal mechanism. The key difference between International Law and its counterparts is derived from its focus on behavior whereas they focus on sanctions and allowances.

International Law as soft law
While an extremely legal understanding poses International Law as anything but a law, a behavioral understanding shows how International Law is indeed impactful, as it affects actions of its subjects overtime. Human Rights have gained the international relevance and depth that they do due to International Law’s attempts overtime, whereby its actors have worked together to make norms even before Human Rights Treaties and Law were codified. Norms are matters that International Law’s subjects pay attention to through their behaviors. The more a norm is propagated overtime, the more likely it is that it will become a customary practice and these practices have more bearing on written law (national or regional) influencing it in an invisible but sizable manner.

Regional and national law versus International Law
The subjects of International Law differ from regional and national law. For instance, while national law focuses mainly on its citizens within the jurisdiction of its territory, regional law focuses on transnational actors and states within that region. International Law however is not bound by territory, nor is limited in its jurisdiction unlike its counterparts. Its subjects vary from states, entities, specialists to even citizens. International Law includes all these categories as its subjects, and as a consequence, it becomes less fixed and more flexible to cater to their vast differences.

International Law is not a legal mechanism but is Global Governance
International Law from these observations shows an undeniable relevance to global developments. It cannot operate in isolation like national law, nor is it applicable to only select-subjects (citizens of a country). Rather, International Law has to remain relevant to all actors’ behaviors, but also produce legal momentum to keep impacting their behavior. For this reason, International Law is not national and regional law, but rather encapsulates both alongwith its own customs to drive the governance of its subjects of all kinds. It must ensure a reasonable degree of uniformity but also flexibility to cater to its different subjects. It must have a historical coherence, but also dynamism in order to channel future behavior. Ultimately, it would be unfair to say International Law is not law. It is simply the kind of law that differs from the basic text-book understanding of codified regulation.

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