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Impact of domestic courts’ decisions on international law

The Distomo cases, the Urgenda Foundation v The Netherlands case, the Alien Tort Statute cases, and the Israeli targeted killings cases are among the most fascinating domestic cases on international law. But why should we care about domestic courts’ interpretation and application of international law? And what role do domestic courts play in crystallizing the general principles of international law?

In practice, a vast amount of international law is actually implemented and interpreted by domestic courts. These courts are increasingly engaged with international law across a diverse array of areas, such as statehood; immunities; human rights and humanitarian law; environmental issues; refugee law; and the use of force and non-intervention.

However, the way that international law is interpreted, applied, and received at the national level differs widely from one state to another. The significance of domestic court decisions that deal with international law not only lies in the potential authoritative determinations of international law, but also in what we can learn from the distinct approaches taken by different domestic legal systems. Sometimes, a domestic judge’s refusal to engage with international law can say as much as judgments that go to great length to correctly apply international law.

Domestic courts decisions from the world’s richest states, including the United Kingdom and United States, are relatively easy to find but judgments from developing countries are often difficult to uncover and put into context. The result is that contributions by developing country courts are often overlooked in international law research.

Back in September, we celebrated the tenth anniversary of Oxford Reports on International Law in Domestic Courts (ILDC), the first module launched of the Oxford Reports on International Law (ORIL) service.

To mark ILDC’s tenth birthday, we sat down with Editors-in-Chief André Nollkaemper and August Reinisch, to discuss the most fascinating domestic cases on international law, and discover the huge impact that domestic courts’ decisions have on the rule of international law in general.

In this video ILDC Editors-in-Chief André Nollkaemper and August Reinisch discuss four of the most important domestic cases on international law: The Distomo cases, the Urgenda Foundation v The Netherlands case, the Alien Tort Statute cases, and the Israeli targeted killings cases.

In this video ILDC Editors-in-Chief André Nollkaemper and August Reinisch talk about the impact that domestic courts’ decisions have on international law, why we should care about domestic courts’ interpretation and application of international law, and the role that domestic courts play in crystallizing general principles of international law.

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