International Humanitarian Law (IHL) is a branch of public international law. In order to fully understand the work and operation of humanitarian law, it is important to understand the basic structure, principles and rules of public international law.
Public international law is the practice of regulating and regulating relations between countries in different fields, such as armed conflict, human rights, oceans, space, trade, territorial boundaries and diplomatic relations.
The Charter of the United Nations stipulates the basic principles of modern public international law, in particular:
Promotion of human rights;
Strictly restrict the right to use force against other countries;
The occupation of territory by force is strictly prohibited.
The state is the main subject of international law. However, international law can also regulate the conduct of other entities, namely: international organizations, non-state actors (including national liberation movements and individuals), international non-governmental organizations and transnational corporations. All of these can be defined as subjects of international law and can be considered as legal persons. This means that they have existing obligations and rights under international law.
Several branches of public international law are combined to protect universal values related to human dignity. Each represents a protection tool, all of which should be considered complementary and must be fully applied. These branches are: international humanitarian law, international refugee law, international criminal law and international human rights law.
Public international law includes a system of rules relating only to the rights and obligations of sovereign states. For example, the Charter of the United Nations is the core instrument of public international law.
Private international law, also known as conflict of laws, consists of rules that govern the relationship between private entities and determine which domestic laws and / or courts can decide which issues have an international component. For example, if a Chinese company wants to enter into a contract with the United States, if the contract is breached, private international law will regulate the applicable law.
The relationship between procedural domestic and international law can be complex, especially when international law is applied directly by national courts. It is important to remember that domestic law cannot be used as a justification for failure to fulfil international responsibility.
In the words of Hersch lauterpact, one of the recognized founders of modern international law:
It is a self-evident principle of international law that a state cannot invoke its domestic law as a ground for non-compliance with its international obligations.
The norms and rules of international law have been compiled into a series of treaties and other materials. The main sources of international law are:
Treaty Law: such as the Charter of the United Nations and the Geneva Conventions;
Customary international law: established in accordance with state practice and legal intent;
General principles of law recognized by civilized countries: regarded as encouraging rather than direct sources of law. An example of this is the principle of Estoppel and fairness.
A basic principle of international law states that any state that violates an international obligation must be responsible for its acts. More specifically, according to the concept of state responsibility, states that do not respect international obligations must immediately cease their illegal acts and provide compensation to the injured party. The principle of state responsibility is part of customary international law and is binding. All States.
Third States are also under an obligation not to assist other states that violate international law and are legally responsible under Article 1 common to the Geneva Conventions in order to ensure respect for international humanitarian law.
Many rules of international law reflect the norms of jus cogens, also known as peremptory norms of international law.
The status of jus cogens is reserved to the most basic rules of international law, which are recognized and accepted by the international community without any exception (Article 53 of the Vienna Convention on the law of Treaties). In all cases, the rules of jus cogens are always observed and cannot be replaced by international agreements or treaties.
Examples of jus cogens norms include the right of all peoples to self-determination, the prohibition of the occupation of territory by force and the prohibition of genocide, slavery and torture.
A breach of some of the provisions of international law (usually those classified as jus cogens) gives rise to a general obligation Erga omnes is a Latin concept that can be translated into all people. Universal obligations arise when fundamental principles of international law are violated, which means that all States have the right to act. Examples of acts that may lead to universal obligations include piracy, genocide, slavery, torture and racial discrimination.