The UN and International Law

The promotion and development of the rule of law at the national and international levels is at the heart of the United Nations mission. Furthermore, the Charter of the United Nations, in its Preamble, sets the objective “to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained”.[1]

The International Law interpretation matters. Its involvement establishes respect for the rule of law in its fundamental rights in human protection sector, sustained development and economic progress. In addition the International Law is the expression of constitution of a durable peace in the aftermath of a conflict.

The objective of the International Law is sustainability of the legal responsibilities of States in their conduct with each other, and their treatment of individuals within State boundaries. The domain of the International Law encompasses a wide range of issues of international concern such as the treatment of prisoners, human rights, disarmament, refugees, international crime, migration, problems of nationality, the use of force, and the conduct of war.

Moreover, the interpretation of the International Law is responsible for regulation of the global commons, such as the sustainable development, international waters, outer space, global communications, and environment and world trade.

The principle of accountability in front of the international law, applies to everyone under the United Nations capacity of power: from the State to individuals themselves. It applies equally independently adjudicated, and enforced. This is the fundamental concept, which drives much of the United Nations work.

To become a part of the UN legal system, a treaty party: a State must express its willingness to accept the obligations, and benefits which come with the membership, and it must “consent to be bound” by the treaty. Such willingness expressed by the State is usually done through signature and ratification of a treaty, or if a treaty is already in force, by accession to it.

Under the United Nations competences there are designed organizations dealing with the International Law. Organisations of a joint focal point for the connections, justice, and police in the rule of law in post-conflict and other crisis situations.

International legal instruments and treaties are developed by the specialized agencies of the United Nations, such as the International Civil Aviation Organisation -ICAO the International Labor Organisation -ILO, and the International Maritime Organisation -IMO, by the subsidiary organs of the United Nations, such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime -UNDOC, or the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law -UNCITRAL, and by multilateral negotiating bodies, such as the Conference on Disarmament. There is a forum for the consideration of legal questions in the General Assembly. The primary forum is The UN Legal Sixth Committe. In the forum a number of international treaties and many international instruments have been adopted.

The overall coordination of rule of law work by the United Nations system is established and accomplished by the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group, chaired by the Deputy Secretary-General and supported by the Rule of Law Unit. The Resource Group members are the principals of 20 United Nations entities engaged in supporting Member States to strengthen the rule of law.

Furthermore, to provide support from headquarters to rule of law activities at the national level, the Secretary-General designated the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Then, there is the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. The legal disputes between States are referred to the Court. The Court also has the competences to provide advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorised international agencies.

Furthermore, there are Tribunals. The ad hoc tribunals and United Nations-assisted tribunals have continued to contribute to promotion of accountability and combat of the most serious crimes under the International Law created by the UN competence. [2] For example, there has been a very popular case of the Special tribunal for Lebanon, with the continued trial of five accused with respect to the attack against Rafiq Hariri.

The International Criminal Court established in 2002, is another form of intergovernmental organisation and international tribunal. It is used to investigate violations of human rights under the international law, such as: war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide.

Lastly, The International Law Commission established in 1948. The International Law Commission is the organisation with a mandate to undertake the progress and codification of international law under article 13(1)(a) of the Charter of the United Nations. The task of the Commission as the legal body is to prepare draft conventions on subjects, which have not yet been ruled by international law and to codify rules of international law in fields, where there already has been extensive State practice.

Overall the international law aspect is an essential part of the UN institution.

By Alice Stelmach



“International Law”. Web. Mar. 2016.

“Justice and International Law.” Web. Mar. 2016.

“UN Documentation: International Law.” Web. Mar. 2016.

Egede E., Such P. (2013), “The Politics of International Law and International Justice.” Edinburgh University Press, United Kingdom.

Crawford J., Pellet A., and Olleson S. (2010), “The Law of International Responsibility (Oxford Commentaries on International Law).”Oxford University Press, United Kingdom.

Zwaneburg, M. (2013), “United Nations and International Humanitarian Law.” Oxford Public International Law. Web. Mar. 2016.

[1] “International Law”. Web. Mar. 2016.

[2] “Justice and International Law.” Web. Mar. 2016.


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