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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: June 2012



The body of law devoted to international human rights and humanitarian issues has exploded in the past two decades, primarily because of renewed interest in international dispute resolution, the decline in traditional doctrines of sovereignty and state-to-state relationships, and the related growth of norms recognizing the enforceability of the rights of individuals against states for the violation of human rights and humanitarian legal norms. The number of institutions that pronounce upon this body of law has increased, and the number of cases addressed each year has increased exponentially. This section includes some of the most important decisions that make up the corpus of international human rights and humanitarian case law.

Formal Sources

The Statute of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) sets forth the body of international law the Court is to apply to disputes brought before it. The sources of law recognized in the ICJ's statute are universally recognized as constituting a basic description of the general sources of international law.

Article 38

Statute of the International Court of Justice

June 26, 1945, 59 Stat. 1005, T.S. 993

1. The Court … shall apply:

(a) international conventions, whether general or particular, establishing rules expressly recognized by the contesting states;

(b) international custom, as evidence of a general practice accepted as law;

(c) the general principles of law recognized by civilized nations;

(d) subject to the provisions of Article 59, judicial decisions and the teachings of the most highly qualified publicists of the various nations, as subsidiary means for the determination of rules of law.

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