Public international law


When we refer to public international law, it is also important to know what international law is . This type of law is formed by a group of legal norms of an international nature that is responsible for regulating the laws that the states have. All these agreements and treaties, in addition to the protocols, are part of international law. So, public international law is an order that helps to control the way in which states behave in their relations with others.

What is public international law?

Public international law is the type of law that regulates the behavior of States and other international subjects in their own powers and in mutual relations to seek peace and international cooperation .

  • What does it consist of
  • Characteristics of public international law
  • Background
  • Story
  • Branches
  • Principles of public international law
  • Sources
  • Features
  • Subjects
  • Doctrine
  • Public order
  • Importance of public international law
  • Examples

What does it consist of

The International Law public consists of the legal system whose main function is to control the way we all behave States and other subjects that are of such international . It is in charge of regulating the different competencies and the types of relationships that are established between them, based on some common aspects and values, in order to achieve international peace and cooperation through norms born from specific international sources. In other simpler words, we could say that it consists of the legal system of theInternational Community .


Public International Law has an important sociological basis of an international character, in what is known by the name of ” human group “, which is constituted by a community fund and a social and artificial organic realization , from which it is born and for which this legal regulation is formed.

Characteristics of public international law

The main characteristics that we can observe in public international law are the following:

  • There must be a common good for cooperation between states.
  • Relationships are subject to general laws that relate to the development of society .
  • States must foster harmonious relations and maintain peaceful development.
  • There must be adequate relations of a political nature that are basic for the life of the States.
  • It is just as independent as governments, whether they are republican or monarchical.
  • It is a right of coordination , it does not have centralized bodies and the responsibility is collective.
  • There is also a security of a collective nature, it is dynamic and legal .
  • It has relativity of international legal duties.


The antecedents of public international law are considered to come from two well-defined sources or trends. One of them was the origin of international law itself, which originated in the old international states ; and the other, in the 16th century, when the great European states were formed . At the moment when different communities or different societies begin to relate to each other, that is when public international law is born.

The oldest international treaty of which there is record was made in Mesopotamia , between the king of Elba and the king of Assyria, in which they established friendly and commercial relations, setting joint sanctions for those who committed crimes.


The history of international public law dates from Mesopotamia when Lagash and Umma, made a treaty to recognize a border and also established a series of punishments or sanctions supposedly indicated by the gods. There was also a treaty between Egypt and the kingdom of the Hittites , it was at the time a peace and alliance treaty , a pact to avoid aggression and an extradition regime was dictated in it. In India, with the Manú code, new forms are born to be able to regulate wars peacefully and in China Ambassadors and other officials began to be appointed.

During the Middle Ages, public international rights were driven by commerce and marine transportation . Some time later the Magna Carta and commercial law were created , in which it was established that any merchant who was a foreigner could temporarily reside in England and traffic without taxes. The intercursus magnus of 1495 was prepared by Henry VIII in which it was established that merchants could reside freely, buy and sell merchandise.


The branches of public international law are as follows:

  • Financial law
  • Criminal law
  • Constitutional law
  • Administrative law
  • Procedural law .

Principles of public international law

The basic principles of public international law are the following:

  • Peaceful coexistence: it is the form of coexistence that occurs between the different States that have different political, economic and social systems respecting public international law.
  • Sovereign equality .
  • Independence .
  • Self-determination : these are the rights that peoples have to freely choose their political, economic and social regime.
  • Territorial integrity .
  • Conservation rights : the State acquires the necessary means to attend to its own defense against internal and external enemies.
  • Mutual respect .
  • Right of nationalization: power that peoples have to use their wealth and resources.


The sources available to public international law are:

  • The international treaties , which are constituting the first and most important source of public international law.
  • The usual .
  • The general principles of law , in other words, those that have not been accumulated in international treaties or indicated by customs, and that are also recognized by civilized nations.
  • The national legislation of the States.
  • The advisory opinions of the International Court of Justice.
  • The jurisprudence .
  • The diplomatic acts of the States.


One of the main functions is to maintain the relations of the international social group , of which the main legal postulate is to maintain international peace and security . The second function is to separate the State from the demands coming from the international environment so that objectives of common interest for the social group can be achieved , whose main legal postulate is general cooperation. And the last function of public international law is to integrate to enhance the consensus regarding collective interestsessential that the international social group has in order to create and protect imperative law.


The subjects of public international law are the following:

  • The State , which is considered the primary subject of private international law.
  • International Intergovernmental Organizations or associations that have been created by an international agreement.
  • Belligerent Communities
  • National Liberation Movements
  • Holy See which includes Vatican City and The Sovereign Order of Malta are considered and mentioned separately for historical reasons.
  • They are also subjects of public international law, all entities where certain characteristics , elements and attributes of the system occur .


There are three doctrines on which public international law is based, one of them is the natural law doctrine , the second were the positivist doctrines and finally, we find the systematic positivist doctrines .

Public order

The state is the one that has to ensure the application of public international law depending on the legal system and they do so through the judges and the courts . It is important to bear in mind that no rule of law can be applied in a state when it causes damage to its order.

Importance of public international law

Public international law is important because it acts based on its values that help to structure the relationships that exist between members of the international community . It is a means of ensuring that an international community does not fall into the hands of sovereign states . Its main right is to ensure international peace and security , functioning as a shaper of the international social order through the creation of legal norms through the sources of international law .


Some examples of international law are as follows:

  • Air spaces between countries.
  • Maritime spaces between countries.

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