This guide attempts to present a simplified roadmap for finding primary source material in international law. For the purposes of this guide, "primary source" documents are defined as treaties, international case law, and rules and regulations promulgated by Intergovernmental Organizations.
Treaties are like the statutes of international law. The first step of international law research is to see whether there is a treaty that governs a certain situation. There are two types of treaties: bilateral treaties are those between two countries; multilateral treaties are between three or more countries. According to article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations, every treaty entered into by a member of the U.N. is to be registered with the Secretariat. Consequently, the U.N. is by far the best source for treaties from 1945-present.
Note that in the United States the word "treaty" refers to those international agreements that have received the advice and consent of the Senate. This guide uses the term in a general sense to refer to all international agreements. For a discussion of other names given to such agreements see the United Nations Treaty Reference Guide.
To find a treaty (book sources):
1.) If you have a citation to a treaty, for example a UNTS (United Nations Treaty Series), LNTS (League of Nations Treaty Series), UST (United States Treaties and Other International Agreements), TIAS (Treaties and Other International Acts Series), KAV (for Kavass, the common name of Hein's United States Treaties and Other International Agreements Current Service) or T.Doc (U.S. Senate Treaty Document number) citation, use Table 1 to locate a source for the full text of the treaty.
2.) If you don’t have a citation to a treaty, but have a title or subject area you can use one of the subject indexes from Table 2. The United Nations Current Treaty Index (Ref. KZ 171 .U512 1999, kept up to date by supplements) is an excellent subject index, but the subjects tend to be a bit broad. The Multilateral Treaty Calendar 1648-1995 (Ref. KZ 118 .W55 1998) lists multilateral treaties chronologically, and has an excellent subject index, as well as lists of GATT and ILO treaties, and international conventions. It gives all available cites for listed treaties. For U.S. treaties, there’s Hein’s U.S. Treaty Index (Ref. KZ235 .U58 1991) which covers bilateral and multilateral treaties from 1776-present. NB: This includes only treaties signed by the U.S. The World Treaty Index covers multilateral and bilateral treaties generally from 1900-1983. Any of these indexes should give you a citation, and you can proceed to the correct series as directed by Table 1.
3.) Finally, after you have the treaty, you need to discover its status. For U.S. treaties, check Treaties in Force (Ref. KZ235 .T74, on the Department of State Web site at http://www.state.gov/s/l/treaty/tif/index.htm, and on HeinOnline) or the Guide to the United States Treaties in Force (Ref. KZ235 .G84), which lists treaties chronologically, by subject, and by country. This will list those treaties currently in force in the U.S. For other multilateral and bilateral agreements, check the Status of Multilateral Treaties Deposited with the Secretary General online at http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ParticipationStatus.aspx. Also the Multilateral Treaty Calendar mentioned above has some status information in the notes.
Other Book Sources
In addition to the sources listed in the appended tables, you can check the following collections for some of the more basic, major treaties:
International Law and World Order: Basic Documents (Reference JX68 .I496). A 7 volume set containing a wide variety of treaties, conventions, agreements, etc. No great subject index, but numerous lists and a comprehensive basic keyword index. A good starting point if you want to avoid the bigger sets.
Blackstone’s International Law Documents (Ref. JX68 .B57 1999). Includes a chronological table of contents, a good subject index, and treaties from the 1919 covenant of the League of Nations to the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Court.
Major Peace Treaties of Modern History 1648-1967 (KZ184.2 .I8 1967). An eclectic selection of treaties, many of which arose as the result of early European wars.
International Legal Materials (Periodicals Collection, 7th floor (current edition on reserve) and HeinOnline). A collection of international documents selected by the American Society of International Law. A good source for major treaties, agreements, etc.
To find a treaty (Electronic sources):
There are many treaties available on both Westlaw and Lexis, and an increasing number available over the Internet. Coverage varies, so it’s worthwhile to check all sources.
U.S. Treaties and Other International Agreements (USTREATIES) - U.S. treaties from 1778 to present.
International Legal Materials (ILM) – A collection of international documents, selected by the American Society of International Law. Selected coverage begins with 1980 (v. 19)
International Legal Materials Index (ILM-INDX) – An index to the documents published in ILM, from 1962-present.
Federal Taxation – U.S. Treaties and Conventions (FTX-TREATIES) – Tax agreements between the United States and Foreign Governments published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin. Coverage begins in 1844.
GATT, Uruguay Round (GATT) – Texts of the GATT and Uruguay Round agreements, including the agreement establishing the WTO, signed April 15, 1994.
International Economic Law Documents (IEL) – International agreements dealing with economic law, selected by the American Society of International Law (ASIL).
International Environmental Law Documents (INTLENVL) – Collection of environmental law treaties, agreements, and conventions.
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) – Full text of the agreement, and other summaries, and news releases, beginning in 1992.
To get to a list of treaty databases, click on Area of Law - By Topic > International Law > Find Treaties & International Agreements. You will get a menu that will include:
U.S. Treaties on LEXIS – U.S. Treaties from 1776-present.
American Society of International Law Publications – includes International Legal Materials, American Journal of International Law, and Basic Documents of International Economic Law (which includes several EC economic treaties).
GATT Basic Instruments and Selected Documents – The treaties of the GATT & agreements of the Uruguay Round, and the WTO treaty. Also, texts of decisions based on the GATT & WTO.
Treaties and Agreements from ILM – A subset of the ASIL file, includes only those treaties and agreements selected for publication in ILM.
North American Free Trade Agreement - Includes all basic documents of NAFTA from September 1993.
United Nations Treaty Database http://treaties.un.org/Pages/UNTSOnline.aspx?id=1. Contains full text of the League of Nations Treaty Series (1920-1944) and United Nations Treaty Series (1946-present). The search engine is not entirely friendly, and the treaties are stored as image files, which makes using them a bit cumbersome.
HeinOnline http://heinonline.org/HOL/Index?collection=ustreaties. Contains numerous collections of treaties to which the United States is a party: United States Treaties and Other International Agreements (UST); Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America 1776-1949 (Bevans); Treaties, Conventions, International Acts, Protocols and Agreements (Malloy); Treaties and Other International Acts Series (TIAS) and KAV Agreements. Also contains the full text of International Legal Materials (ILM). Subscription database -- Suffolk only.
Department of State Treaty Actions http://www.state.gov/s/l/treaty/c3428.htm. Published annually from 1997. Arrangement and search capabilities vary by year.
Department of State Office of the Legal Adviser http://www.state.gov/s/l/. Provides links to the Private International Law Database (with texts of many treaties and conventions broken down into broad subject categories), Treaty Actions, (see above) and Treaties in Force (an annual list of U.S. treaties and international agreements currently in force).
Australian Treaties Library http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/other/dfat/. A great database of all Australian treaties, multilateral and bilateral, indexed by subject, keyword, and date.
OAS Treaty Series http://www.oas.org/juridico/english/treaties.html. Treaties signed under the auspices of the Organization of American States. Indexed by year, subject, and signatories.
Hague Conventions on Private International Law http://www.hcch.net/index_en.php?act=conventions.listing. The text and status of all multilateral treaties drawn up by the Hague Conference.
Council of Europe Treaties http://conventions.coe.int/. Full text of treaties in the Council of Europe Treaty Series (CETS). Searchable by subject, keyword, state, title, date, reservation, and cite.
Fletcher Multilaterals Project http://fletcher.archive.tusm-oit.org/multilaterals/. Includes texts of selected multilateral treaties. Arranged by subject and date, and searchable by keyword.
Avalon Project http://avalon.law.yale.edu/default.asp. An outstanding collection of historically important treaties organized by date and by type of collection. It is possible to search the Yale Web site as well.
U.S. Treaty Documents http://www.gpo.gov/help/u.s._congressional_serial_set.htm. Contains treaty documents from the 104th congress on. Access to current U.S. Treaties, though unofficial versions only.
Electronic Information System for International Law (EISIL) http://www.eisil.org/. Searchable/browsable index of selected treaties with citations and links to authenticated full-text versions.
Flare Index to Treaties http://220.127.116.11/dbtw-wpd/textbase/treatysearch.htm. Searchable index of selected treaties with citations and sometimes links.
World Treaty Index http://worldtreatyindex.com. Contains citations to multilateral and bilateral 20th century treaties.
The second body of international primary law is international case law. There are several international courts and tribunals, each of which has a different jurisdiction. Below you will find the names of the courts, brief descriptions, and sources for the case law from some of these bodies.
The International Court of Justice is the first and perhaps the most important of these courts. It is the main judicial body of the United Nations. Decisions of the ICJ are published in Reports of Judgments, Advisory Opinions, and Orders (KZ210 .R4). Judgments, orders and some pleadings, from 1947 to present, are available on the Court's Web site, http://www.icj-cij.org/. Judgments are available on Westlaw (INT-ICJ, 1947-present), Lexis (International Court of Justice Decisions), and in the International Law Reports (KZ199 .I58c), which has a cumulative index every 5-10 volumes.
The European Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance are the primary judicial bodies of the European Union. The official reporter for decisions, which is not held by Suffolk, is Reports of Cases before the Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance. Decisions are also published in the International Law Reports (KZ199 .I58c) and are available online at http://curia.europa.eu/en/transitpage.htm.
There are several courts of human rights. The European Court of Human Rights is the judicial institution organized to enforce the European Convention on Human Rights. Printed copies of the decisions of the ECHR are no longer readily available, so the only source for current decisions is the Web site, http://cmiskp.echr.coe.int/tkp197/search.asp?skin=hudoc-en. There are, however, several guides to the existing case law – a particularly good three volume guide is A Systematic Guide to the Case Law of the European Court of Human Rights by Peter Kempees (KJC5132 .A52 K46 1996).
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights of the Organization of American States issues advisory opinions and judgments regarding Human Rights issues within the OAS. Its Web site, http://www.corteidh.or.cr/index.cfm, provides access to decisions, judgments, and advisory opinions.
The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea was established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea for the peaceful settlement of disputes. Decisions, procedures, statements, and other documents from the tribunal are available at http://www.itlos.org/.
There are currently two War Crimes Trials going on: the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Both of these tribunals have excellent Web sites, with texts of judgments and opinions, rules and procedures, news and press releases, and other relevant documents. The Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia is at http://www.un.org/icty; the Tribunal for Rwanda is at http://www.un.org/. There are a few excellent books about these tribunals: for Yugoslavia, see An Insider's Guide to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia: A Documentary History and Analysis by Michael Scharf and Virginia Morris (KZ1203 .A165 1995) and Balkan Justice: the Story Behind the First International War Crimes Trial Since Nuremberg by Michael Scharf (JX5445 .S33 1997). For Rwanda, see The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, also by Michael Scharf and Virginia Morris (KZ1201.A12 M67 1998).
The International Criminal Court was created by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which entered into force on July 1, 2002. According to the Rome Statute, the International Criminal Court has "power to exercise its jurisdiction over persons for the most serious crimes of international concern, as referred to in this Statute, and shall be complementary to national criminal jurisdictions." The Court's 18 judges and 1 prosecutor have been elected, several investigations are currently underway, and the first charges have been filed. For additional information on the International Criminal Court, see the Court's Web site: http://www.icc-cpi.int/EN_Menus. For general information on international criminal law, see International Criminal Law by Cherif Bassiouni (K5165 .I58 1998) and International Criminal Law by Kriangsak Kittichaisaree (K5000 .K75 2001).
Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs) are the main bodies of international law. Member nations meet in these organizations and draft international law and policy, adjudicate matters based on international law, and respond to social, economic, scientific, and cultural issues that affect the member states.
Most of the major IGOs maintain Web sites where users can access primary documents, research reports, press releases, news, and information about the organization and its members. Only a small number of IGOs are discussed below. For more in-depth treatment, see Introduction to International Organizations by Lyonette Louis-Jacques and Jeanne S. Korman (Ref. JX1954 .I57 1995). Also, Congressional Quarterly’s International Information Directory (Ref. JZ4838 .I58) has a chapter on IGOs. For the most part, Congressional Quarterly provides only directory information, however it is extensive. Finally, for a comprehensive list of IGOs with links to their Web sites, see the list on the Northwestern University site: http://www.library.northwestern.edu/govpub/resource/internat/igo.html.
Certainly the biggest and most important Intergovernmental Organization is the United Nations. The UN maintains an excellent Web site, at http://www.un.org, with links to all assemblies and councils (including the Security Council), with many official UN documents available. U.N. documents are classified using their own unique system, a guide to which can be found in Peter Hajnal’s excellent International Information: Documents, Publications, and Electronic Information of International Governmental Organizations (Ref. JZ4850 .I58 1997). There are many good guides to the United Nations, all found in the call number JX1977 range, including the very good Encyclopedia of the United Nations (Ref. JX1977 .O8213 1990), and Everyone’s United Nations (Ref. JX1977 .A38 1986). There is also an excellent chapter on the United Nations in the Louis-Jacques book mentioned above (Ref. JX1954 .I57 1995).
The European Union is the IGO at the heart of an "Integrated Europe." The European Union was formed by a number of treaties, which can be found at http://eur-lex.europa.eu/collection/eu-law/treaties.html. EUROPA, at http://europa.eu/, is the official Web site of the European Union. It is an exceptionally well-maintained site with links to the European Parliament (the legislative body of the EU), the European Council (a body made up of the 28 heads of the 28 states that make up the EU), the Court of Justice, and other bodies of the EU. EUR-Lex, at http://eur-lex.europa.eu/homepage.html, contains the texts of EU legislation, treaties affecting the EU, and the full text of the Official Journal of the European Communities. There are also several text guides to the EU, including the Encyclopedia of the European Union (JN30 .E52 1998), Hans Smit’s six volume looseleaf, The Law of the European Community: A Commentary on the EEC Treaty (JN30 .S65) and the European Union Law Guide (KJE6569 .E971 1994). For current information, see the CCH looseleaf, European Union Law Reporter (KJE949 .E96).
World Trade Organization
The World Trade Organization was created as a result of the Uruguay Round Negotiations. It is the largest organization that deals with trade between nations. It regulates trade between nations and has a dispute resolution body that hears cases and issues reports. The primary source for WTO documents is the WTO Web site, at http://www.wto.org. It contains the full text of the Uruguay Round agreements, treaties that deal with international trade, reports of the dispute settlement panel, and other official documents, comprising over 60,000 documents and texts. There are also several books on the WTO, including Law and Practice of the World Trade Organization (K4601.6 .L39 1995), International Trade Law and the GATT/WTO Dispute Settlement System (K4600 .I57 1997), and the WTO Dispute Settlement Reports (K3943.A53 W674).
World Intellectual Property Organization
The World Intellectual Property Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations, responsible for the protection and promotion of intellectual property throughout the world. By far, the best source for WIPO information is their Web site, http://www.wipo.org. From the main Web page, one can connect to sites that collect information on dispute resolution, internet domain names, industrial property law, biotechnology and intellectual property, and "traditional" intellectual property. There is also a handful of books in the K1401 call number range that deal with international intellectual property, including International Treaties on Intellectual Property (K1401 .A35 I57 1997), which contains most of the WIPO treaties and agreements through 1997.