International Law Traditionally International Law Term Paper

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It has given a clear signal to unscrupulous tyrants and murderous dictators around the world that they have no place to hide. Earlier, they could escape prosecution for their crimes by brow-beating or manipulating the judicial system in their own country; the expanding reach of international law has now made it possible for them to be answerable for such universally unacceptable crimes (Kenneth Roth).

The benefits of international law are also recognized by private business. For example the U.S. Apparel Industry Partnership has voluntarily agreed to a standard code of conduct that prohibits forced labor, child labor, and workweeks exceeding 60 hours. This has had a significant effect on the operation of U.S. companies in poor countries and helped to prevent the cruel exploitation of cheap labor (Ratner 71). The signing of the "Sullivan Principles" by more than 100 U.S. companies in 1977 that call for desegregation in the workplace, equal pay, and equal employment practices has had a similar effect (Ibid.)


Extending international law beyond its traditional boundaries also has its trade-offs. The most significant of these is the relative reduction in sovereignty of nation-states that the growing reach of international law necessitates. Although opponents of international law vehemently resent the encroachment of international law on state sovereignty, it does not seem to be such a bad trade-off on serious reflection. Consider the fact that individuals living in a country voluntarily give up some of their sovereignty to the government as part of a 'social contract' for the collective good. The government, in turn, uses these powers to provide safety, and other necessary facilities for its citizens so that they may pursue their own individual development in a conducive environment; the alternative to such an arrangement, everyone agrees, would be chaos and anarchy. The same principle applies on an international level: by trading a small part of 'state sovereignty' at the individual level, all countries can reap the benefits of international law at the collective level.

Similarly, some people in the more powerful countries fear that the reach of international law beyond state-to-state relations would restrict their country's clout at the global level. Influential people such as Henry Kissinger also oppose the application of international law in matters of criminal justice by advocating that the concept of universal jurisdiction risks replacing the tyranny of governments with the 'tyranny of judges.' (Kissinger) However, even if international law diminishes the powers of the more powerful states to some extent, it is not a bad trade-off. In most countries, a number of domestic laws are made to empower the poorer sections of the society and are generally considered to be 'good' laws. By the same logic, international laws that reduce the powers of the powerful nations and empower the poorer, less developed nations should be an acceptable trade-off.

Works Cited

Hathaway, Oona a. "Two Cheers for International Law." The Wilson Quarterly Autumn 2003: 50+.

International law." The Free Dictionary. 2008. January 14, 2008.

Kissinger, Henry. "The Pitfalls of Universal Jurisdiction: Risking Judicial Tyranny." Foreign Affairs. July/August 2001. January 14, 2008.

Mcwhinney, Edward. "1. Shifting Paradigms of International Law and World Order in an Era of Historical Transition." International Law in the Post-Cold War World: Essays in Memory of Li Haopei. Ed. Sienho Yee and Wang Tieya. London: Routledge, 2001. 3-17.

Ratner, Steven R. "International Law: The Trials of Global Norms." Foreign Policy Spring 1998: 65+.

Roth, Kenneth. "The Case for Universal Jurisdiction." Foreign Affairs. September/October 2001. January 14, 2008.

Utley, Jon Basil. "John Bolton and U.S. Lawlessness." September 27, 2006. January 14, 2008.

It is pertinent to note that environmental NGOs played an important part in the drafting and negotiations of the Kyoto Protocol and it is now no more unusual for NGO and corporate officials to serve on governmental delegations in such international conferences.

John Bolton, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN in 2005-06, is a leading proponent of this theory and believes: "It is a big mistake for us to grant any validity to international law even when it may seem in our short-term interest to do so -- because, over the long-term, the goal of those who think that international law really means anything are those who want to constrict the United States." (Quoted by Utley, 2006)

International Law

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