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INTERNATIONAL LEGAL RESEARCH

Reference Department
Updated: March 2012

Introduction
Treaties
Print/Paper Treaty Research
Selective List of Treaties in Paper Format
Online Treaty Research
Lexis
Westlaw
Customs and Practice
Selective List of Sources for Customs and Practices in Paper Format
General Principles of Laws
International Cases

INTRODUCTION
International legal research involves researching the relationships between two or more countries. 

There are four major sources of international laws: (1) treaties and conventions, (2) practice and customs of the nation states, (3) general principles of laws, which are the written commentaries by recognized scholars that address what international laws are and how the principles of nation states should be understood, and (4) jurisprudence, visa-a-vis the International Court of Justice, other international courts and tribunals.  

Additionally, non-governmental organizations (NGOS) or intergovernmental organizations (IGOS) may be sources to consider in international legal research.  Some of the most widely known NGO's are the American Civil Liberties Union, Doctors without Borders, and Oxfam.  Some of the most widely known IGO's are the United Nations, World Trade Organization, European Union, and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization).

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TREATIES

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PRINT/PAPER TREATY RESEARCH
Treaties are one of the most important sources of international law.  There are several treaty sources to use to find bilateral and multilateral treaties between countries.

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SELECTIVE LIST OF TREATIES IN PAPER FORMAT
Consolidated Treaty Series
[1648-1919]
Author: Clive Parry
Publication: Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., Oceana Publications
Bilateral and multilateral treaties from 1648-1919
Area Law Libraries that own this title: Catholic Univ. Law Library, George Washington Law Library, Georgetown Law Library

League of Nations Treaty Series
[1920-1946]
Bilateral and multilateral treaties from 1920-1946
Publication: London, England: Harrison & Sons
Area Law Libraries that own this title: Howard Univ. Law Library (via Heinonline), George Washington Law Library, Georgetown Univ. (main campus library)

United Nations Treaty Series
[1946- present]
Publication: New York, United Nations
Area Law Libraries that own this title: Howard Univ. Law Library (via Heinonline and books), Catholic Law Library, George Washington Law Library, Georgetown Law Library, American Univ. Law Library

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ONLINE TREATY RESEARCH
There are also several sources for finding treaties online, for free on the Internet or through a database subscription.  Here is a selective list of online sources to find treaties:

United Nations Treaty Series, via UN website
http://untreaty.un.org/English/treaty.asp
Limited access to free full-text treaties and conventions without
subscribing to the database from the UN website.  It is possible to get  full access to all treaties by subscribing.

Treaties and Agreements Library, via Heinonline
http://www.heinonline.org/
Heinonline.org is a subscription database.  Its Treaties and Agreements Library allows for searching for bilateral and multilateral treaties through several different treaty sources, such as Treaties in Force and Treaties, Other International Act Series (TIAS), League of Nations Treaty Series, United Nations Treaties Series, and Worldwide Treaties, as well as other titles.
           
Treaty Affairs, via U.S. Department of State website
http://www.state.gov/s/l/treaty/
Treaty Affairs is a State Department webpage that provides limited access to U.S. treaties. 


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LEXIS
Use Lexis' "International Law" tab to access treaty and other international legal sources.  The tab is useful because it places international law databases in one place for quick access.  Here is a selective list of Lexis databases for treaty and other international legal databases online:  

Lexis Database: International Legal Materials
File Name: ILM
Coverage: 1962 - present
Treaties and other international legal documents

Lexis Database: U.S. Treaties in Force
File Name: USTIF
Coverage: 2006 edition
Treaties agreements with the U.S. and another country or countries

Lexis Database: U.S. Treaties on Lexis
File Name: USTRTY
Coverage: 1776 - present, updated monthly
Treaties agreements with the U.S. and another country or countries

Lexis Database: Tax Analysts Worldwide Tax Treaties
File Name: WWTRTY
Coverage: 1906 - present


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WESTLAW
Westlaw offers an "International Law" tab and a "Westlaw International" tab.  The tabs are useful because they place international law databases in one place for quick access.  The "Westlaw International" tab has more foreign law databases from different countries like Australia, Canada, and the European Union.  Here is a selective list of Westlaw databases for treaty and other international legal databases online:  

Westlaw Database: Combined Treaties
Database Identifier: CMB-TREATIES
Coverage:  Multi-database; coverage varies by each database; Bilateral and multilateral treaties and other international agreements

Westlaw Database: Australian Agreements and Treaties
Database Identifier: AU-AGREE-INTL
Coverage: Multi-database, coverage varies by each database

Westlaw Database: U.S. Treaties and Other International Agreements
Database Identifier: USTREATIES
Coverage:  1778 - present
U.S. treaties and American Indian treaties

Westlaw Database: United States Treaties in Force
Database Identifier: USTIF
Coverage: 2007 edition
Treaties agreements with the U.S. and another country or countries

Westlaw Database: European Union Treaties
Database Identifier: EU-TREATIES
Coverage: approximately 1951 - 1992 treaties 
European Union treaties from 1951 - 1992

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CUSTOMS AND PRACTICE
Customs and practice of countries, like customary marriage laws in Nigeria, can be found in international law yearbooks, treatises, tribunal decisions, and the laws and decisions of the countries themselves.  Customs and practice are sometimes called "customary laws," "international customs," or "international customary laws." 


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SELECTIVE LIST OF SOURCES FOR CUSTOMS AND PRACTICES IN PAPER FORMAT
Foreign Decisions and Legal Documents

Digest of U.S. Practice in International Law
Publication: Washington, D.C. : Office of the Legal Adviser, Dept. of  State
This source is also available for free online, via the State Department  website: http://www.state.gov/s/l/c8183.htm
Coverage online: full text from 1989-2006

Foreign Policy from Presidential Documents
Foreign Relations of the United States, via U.S. Department of State
This source is also available for free online:
http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ho/frus/
Coverage online: From Abraham Lincoln's presidency - Richard Nixon's presidency

International Law Yearbooks
International Yearbooks for a specific country are a good source to find a countries' customs and practices.  Check HeinOnline and JSTOR, subscription databases, to see if the yearbook for the country you're researching is online.  Here is a selective list of International Law Yearbooks in print and their availability at academic law libraries in the Metro area:

African Yearbook of International Law (1994-present)
Publisher: Dordrecht ; Boston : M. Nijhoff ; Norwell, MA, U.S.A. sold & distributed in the U.S.A. and Canada by Kluwer Academic Publishers, (1994-present)

Area Law Libraries that own this title: Howard University (main campus library), American Univ. Law Library, Catholic Univ. Law Library, George Washington Law Library, Georgetown Law Library, UDC Law Library

British Yearbook of International Law (1921-presernt)
Publisher: London : Oxford Univ. Pr., (1921 - present)
Area Law Libraries that own this title:  Howard Univ. LawLibrary, American Univ., George Washington Univ., Georgetown Univ.

Netherlands Yearbook of International Law (1971-present)
Publisher: Leiden : A.W. Sijthoff (1971-present)
Area Law Libraries that own this title: Howard Univ. Law Library, Catholic Law Library, George Washington Law Library, Georgetown Law Library


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GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF LAWS
In addition to treaties, conventions, customs and practice, commentaries by recognized scholars may be used in determining what international laws exist and how they should be interpreted.  The commentaries can be found in treatises, law review articles, and other legal materials.



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INTERNATIONAL CASES
International Courts and Tribunals
The International Court of Justice (ICJ): http://www.icj-cij.org/
ICJ is located in the Peace Palace in the Hague, Netherlands.  The United Nations (UN) charter established the court.  UN nation states may bring suit against another nation state to the ICJ.  Although ICJ rulings are not binding in other courts, once the ICJ rules, the states must accept the ruling.  No individual person can be sued in the ICJ.  Instead, tribunals are used to sue a person on the premise of war crimes and other situations.  ICJ is also available on Lexis and Westlaw. 

Other International Courts & Tribunals
There are other international courts and tribunals that are recognized by the UN.  Here is a UN link that lists international courts and other international legal informational: http://www.un.org/Depts/dhl/resguide/specil.htm#trib.

International and foreign legal materials in print are mostly housed on the 3rd and 4th floors.   Check Daniel: http://daniel.law.howard.edu/, the online catalog, to determine which sources are available Howard University Law Library, or contact Reference or 806-8208.


For More Information View
Bob Berring and Marci Hoffman, Advanced Legal Research: International Law [VHS tape] , St. Paul, Minn. : West Group, 2001. Reserve K85.B47 2001 v.1

For more information contact Reference or 806-8208.

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updated: September 6, 2012

daniel

   
     
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