International law is a field of law that consists of rules and principles that dictate the relations and dealings of nations with each other, and relationships between international organizations. Recently, international law has been redefined to include relations between states and individuals, and relations between international organizations. Public international law concerns itself with questions of rights between several nations, or nations and the citizens of other nations, while private international law involves itself with disputes between private citizens that originate in situations having a significant relationship to more than one nation. The major fields of international law include:
International economic law addresses economic issues with a global impact. These include legal and institutional developments in the areas of trade, foreign direct investment, sanctions, economic integration and development, business regulation and taxation, intellectual property, and issues related to the transnational movement and regulation of goods, services, labor, and capital.
International security law dictates the use of force between states, and rules governing the conduct of hostility. This area of international law involves questions such as acceptable use of force under the charter of the United Nations, application of the Geneva Conventions, issues related to peacekeeping and stability, conflict resolution, and legal responses to modern challenges such as failing and fragile states, weapons of mass destruction, transnational crime, and terrorism.
International criminal law and international human rights law as fields involve civil and political rights, economic and social rights, and accountability for violations by states and non-state instigators. Treaties, conventions, and UN Security Council resolutions have allowed for monitoring and permanent courts such as regional human rights courts and the International Criminal Court.
International environmental law relates to global environmental issues such as climate change, exploitation of natural resources, maritime border issues, and sustainable development. There can also be laws regarding health, science, and technology that involve issues such as the Internet, privacy and data encryption, and cyber security and crime.
Diplomatic law is a field of international law that concerns the practice of diplomacy and the rights and responsibilities of representatives of states regarding the territory of other states. Diplomatic law involves issues such as state and sovereign immunity.
The main sources of international law are customary and conventional law. Customary law results when states follow certain practices consistently out of a sense of legal obligation. Customary law was recently dictated in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. Conventional international law originates from international agreements and may take the form that parties agree upon. Agreements can be made regarding any matter except for when the agreement conflicts with the rule of international law that incorporates basic standards of international conduct or the duties of a member state under the Charter of the United Nations.
The subjects of international law usually are states, but individuals and non-state international organizations have also become the subject of international regulations. However, a state within the United States is not regarded as a state under international law due to the fact that the US Constitution does not give states the ability to conduct foreign relations.