D’Aspremont writes that “[a]ny international lawyer – even the nihilist – is an activist of his or her own understanding of law (and of its sources) and, hence, of a given way to make sense of the world”.2 The ‘world’ of international law as I see it is that of a community of individuals (i.e., States and other international actors) that make the law according to their free will, having no government or parliament to rule over them. The court that this community resorts to (i.e., the International Court of Justice) does not have codified laws to base its decisions on. Instead, it relies on contracts agreed upon between individuals (i.e., treaties) and the community’s customs (i.e., customary international law). However, this court can and does resort to certain norms that are neither stipulated in the contracts nor part of custom in its search for the applicable rules. These certain norms are the so-called “general principles recognized by civilized nations”.3

This work assesses general principles through the perspective of the Permanent Court of International Justice and the International Court of Justice and, subject to my own understanding of the sources of international law, clarifies these elusive but important norms “for the benefit of all”.4

1

D’Aspremont, ‘The Idea of “Rules” in the Sources of International Law’, 84 Brit. Y. Int’l L. 1, 103 (2014), at 129–130.

2

Statute of the International Court of Justice, 24 Oct. 1945, 1491 U.N.T.S. 199, art. 38(1)(c).

3

Fisheries Jurisdiction (U.K. v. Ice.), Judgment [1974] I.C.J. 3, at ¶72 (25 July).

General Principles of Law Recognized by Civilized Nations (1922-2018)

The Evolution of the Third Source of International Law Through the Jurisprudence of the Permanent Court of International Justice and the International Court of Justice

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