The Perplexities of Modern International Law


This is a revised and updated version of the General Course on Public International Law delivered at the Hague Academy of International Law in the year 2001.
The century just ended has seen the greatest transformation of human society in all of recorded history. With that, the pattern of international relations and international law based on the sovereign nation State and the Peace of Westphalia (1648) has also witnessed radical transformation. The whole system that existed one hundred years ago has been swept away in a series of bloody wars, revolutions and social upheavals (violent and non-violent), but the new system is not yet firmly established and in place.
Every ‘precedent’, whether legal or other, must first be placed in its historical and temporal context before we can see if it is applicable in new circumstances and the historical evolution of any notion or concept is important for an understanding of its current implications. Through a close linkage between law and history, the author takes us through the evolution of international law to where it stands today.
Shabtai Rosenne is the author of The Law and Practice of the International Court of Justice, now in its third edition; The World Court: What It is and how It works (sixth edition) and General Editor of the authoritative United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982: A Commentary.
Co-publication with: The Hague Academy of International Law.
'In these lectures, Rosenne has dealt with the
important and structural issues of the system of
international law in an enviable manner. One
can say that Rosenne’s General Course is a
journey of exploration, displaying not only great
learning but also wisdom. We have a great deal
to be grateful to him for.
Sienho Yee, Chinese JIL, 2006.
'This review is testimony to the possibilities and the limits of that grand modern project called international law. Rosenne and I share an educational and disciplinary background, a vocabulary, the legacies of European (and specifically British) colonialism, and a place as inhabitants of modern international institutional life. Despite this shared inheritance, reading this book at times produced for me uncomfortable moments of disappointment, disagreement, bewilderment, and failed communication. Yet these existed alongside pleasurable moments of engagement, understanding, and solidarity. Can law promise, and should we expect, anything more?'
Anne Orford in American Journal of International Law, 2005.
'Professor Rosenne herein exposes a rich field of valuable gems, which glitter because of their sparkling contribution to a realistic view of what modern history has done to alter norms thought sacrosanct since the dawn of the modern system of International Law. […] Any library that touts itself as a resource for International Law materials would be incomplete without this authoritative restatement penned by one of the grand masters in the field.'
ASIL Newsletter UN21 Interest Group, 2004.

Winner of The Hague Prize for International Law 2004.
Chapter 1: Some words of introduction: The unity of international law;
Chapter II: Where to find the law;
Chapter III: International courts and tribunals;
Chapter IV: The use of force;
Chapter V: International Humanitarian Law;
Chapter VI: Human rights;
Chapter VII: International personality;
Chapter VIII: Maritime spaces;
Chapter IX: Space, air, outer, cyber;
Chapter X: The written word;
Chapter XI: Responsibilities and remedies;
Chapter XII: The united nations system;
Chapter XIII: Some concluding thoughts; Index.
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