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Public International Law: Getting Started

This guide covers researching public international law, which governs relationships between national governments and between national governments and intergovernmental organizations.

Research Guides on Specific Topics

NYU’s Globalex site provides a range of guides on International law research.


ASIL Guide to Electronic Resources for International Law provides a research guides on specialized topics. (The following links are reproduced from the ASIL site)

European Union (
Provides an overview of the instruments, documents, and other resources for researching the European Union, a legal system based on a "supranational" legal framework. 

Human Rights (
The focus of this chapter is on the main organizations which promulgate human rights instruments: the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the International Labour Organization, the Organization of American States, and many others. The chapter points to Web sites for locating primary documents, including international instruments, case law, and other relevant information. It also provides links and tips for locating secondary sources, such as country reports, NGO documentation, and periodical literature. 

Intellectual Property (
Provides information for locating the major international intellectual property treaties and agreements, links to the most important international bodies dealing with IP issues, and information on how to locate domestic legislation.

International Commercial Arbitration (
Reviews the major international commercial arbitration institutions and agreements. A major component of this chapter is a detailed listing of national arbitration statutes. There is also a section on Lexis and Westlaw. 

International Criminal Law (
Provides links to international, regional, and national courts, as well as to law enforcement organizations, such as INTERPOL. It guides researchers to Web sites that address special categories of crimes -- war, environmental or drug-related, not to mention terrorism and genocide -- as well as to statistical and clearinghouse information sources. 

International Economic Law (
The author presents "an overview of electronic resources in this dynamic and evolving area of law." The materials are organized generally into "International Trade Law" including export-import materials, ISO and ICC information, as well as treaty sources; "International Financial Law" from such organizations as the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), MIGA, IFC and the World Bank; "Regional Economic Integration;" "International Development Law;" "Private International Law" and "International Business Regulation" which includes subsections on competition, e-commerce, environment, and taxation.   

International Environmental Law (
This chapter organizes links to subject-relevant sections of a wide variety of international organizations -- the UN and its specialized agencies, ASEAN, Council of Europe, the EU, WTO, NAFTA, OAU, OECD, OAS, and many more. Later, the author identifies and links to secondary sources and online discussion groups. 

International Humanitarian Law (
An overview on researching the law of war and law of armed conflict is presented in this chapter.  In addition to the Geneva and Hague law, information on leading institutions, military resources, and related topics is included.

International Organizations (
Provides a brief introduction to the concepts of "intergovernmental organizations" and "non-governmental organizations" as well as a discussion of electronic resources helpful in researching these organizations. Links to the Web sites of representative intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations have been selected to highlight access to their documents and other publications.

Private International Law (
This chapter specifies those international organizations that are drafting conventions, model laws, legal guides, and other documents and instruments related to commercial arbitration and sales of goods. There are links to the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules, the UNIDROIT Conventions on International Financial Leasing, and the Hague Conventions on Private International Law that cover taking of evidence, child abduction, and service of documents abroad, among others.  

Public International Law   
Supplemented by the work of international organizations, the sources of international law identified in ICJ Art. 38 provide a useful framework for discussing the resources for researching international law.  Information on locating basic documents, evidence of state practice, secondary resources, specialized libraries and research centers, and important monitoring sources on current developments is covered.  This chapter is forthcoming. 

Treaties (
Provides research guidance on the difficulties of finding authentic, complete treaty series or even reliable texts of individual treaties. Various Web options are explored, from the UN Treaty Collection, to government sites (US and non-US), and intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), such as the Council of Europe and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Non-governmental organizations, such as the Red Cross and university-based resources around the world, are identified and their scope described. Tips on how to find elements other than the text of the treaty, for example signature, ratification and reservations are provided, as well as various research tools including catalogs, indexes, search engines, and current awareness services. 

United Nations chapter (
Identifies and directs researcher to access points within the UN system before focusing on areas such as international law and treaties. Web resources that have been developed by various UN organs, for example, the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) and UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) are highlighted.  Other research guides and tools are provided, followed by a description of the various commercial sources of UN materials online or on CD-ROM.