Sources of Law in Transition. Re-visiting General Principles of International Law

Author:Maria Panezi
Pages:66-79
66 ANCILLAIURIS(anci.ch)2007:66Article
Summary1
GeneralPrinciplesofInternationalLawhavebeenamuch
contestedsourceamongInternationalLawscholars.Theambigu
itythatsurroundstheirinterpretationhasresultedtoavividdia
loguearoundtheirlegalnature,andtheiruseincontemporary
judicialpracticeofdomesticandinternationaltribunals.Global
izationandtheeverincreasingcomplexityofInternationalEco
nomicsaffectedthepositionofGeneralPrincipleswithinthe
internationallegalsystem,andresultedtotheirprogressivecon
solidationintheareaofInternationalEconomicLaw.Further
examinationofissuesarisingvisàvisGeneralPrinciplescould
provetobeusefulinotherareasoflaw,inthesamemannerthey
addressedlegalissuesinInternationalEconomicLaw.
Introduction
GeneralPrinciplesofLawandtheirlegalsignificance
andapplicationhavebeenstudiedextensivelyintotheory
overthepastcentury.Theacademicdialoguebecamevivid
duetovariousreasonssuchastheambiguityofthenotion
ofGeneralPrinciplesortheincorporationofGeneralPrin
ciplesassuchintoarticle38oftheInternationalCourtof
Justice(hereinaftertheICJ)statute.
Article38paragraph1(c)oftheICJStatutelists„general
principlesoflawrecognizedbycivilizednations“asoneof
thesourcesofapplicablelawincasesofdisputesarising
underInternationalLaw.Thisarticleisveryoftencitedas
anauthoritativetextthatenumeratesapplicablelawinthe
jurisprudenceofvariouscourtswheneveradisputearises
amongsubjectsofInternationalLaw.Thus,outofallarti
clesoftheStatute,thisassumesapositionofparticular
importance,sincepartiesoftenexpectittobeappliedin
casesbeforeothertribunalsinadditiontotheICJ.Werethe
domainofitsapplicationsimplythejurisprudenceofthe
ICJ,oritspredecessor,thenthestudyofGeneralPrinciples
wouldhavebeensimpleroratleastmorecontrollablefora
1 Panezi_maria@yahoo.comLL.B.,March2005,AthensNationaland
KapodistrianUniversity,SchoolofLaw,Athens,Greece,LL.M,
May2006,NewYor kUniversity,SchoolofLaw,NewYork, USA,
PhDCandidate,OsgoodeHallLawSchool,Toro nto ,Canada.The
authorwouldliketothankProfessorEyalBenvenistiforhis
insightfulguidanceandsupervisionoftheLLMthesiswhichpro
videdtheframeworkforthisarticle,andProfessorsAchillesSkor
dasandVai osKaravasfortheirusefulcomments.Theusual
disclaimerapplies.
researcher.However,thepossibilityorthefactofinvoca
tionoftheprovisionbyothertribunalsinadditiontothe
ICJ,giveseachsourceofthearticlealargerspectrumof
applicability.
GeneralPrinciplesasasourceofnormativityappearto
bevagueanddifficulttodefineandlocateincontemporary
practice.Thiscouldpotentiallyleadtodifferentattitudes
towardsthem:itcouldbethattheyareseenasablanketof
safety,afinalresortwhennothingmoreconcretecanbe
foundtoregulateacertainissue,oratthesametimearea
sonforpreoccupation,anopendoorthroughwhichunpre
dictablelegislationmightenterintolegalrelationshipsthat
didnotforeseeorexpectsuchanoutcome.Thetwodiffer
entattitudesreflectatthesametimeanoverallstance
towardsthecontemporaryroleofthestate.Thosewhosee
GeneralPrinciplesasatoolforinnovativenormative
assessmentofsocialphenomenaarelessattachedtotradi
tionalnotionsofstatesovereignty.Ontheotherhand,those
whoremainsuspicioustowardsGeneralPrinciplesarealso
reluctanttoabandontheclassicalviewthatplacesthestate
inthecentralpositionofinternationallawproduction.
ThispaperwilltrytoaddresshowGeneralPrinciplesof
InternationalLawhavegainedacrucialpositioninInterna
tionalEconomicLaw.Itisdividedintothreeparts.
Thefirstpartanalyzesbrieflythetraditionalviewof
GeneralPrinciplesofInternationalLawandatthesame
timeattemptstoidentifyoperativepartsintheorythatare
stillapplicabletoday.Itstartswithaveryshortreferenceto
theirhistorybeforetheincorporationintheICJStatute.
Thenitmovesintolookingatthetextofarticle38par.1c.
Italsoexaminestheirlegalnatureandthenwetryto
developacomprehensivedefinitionofGeneralPrinciples
ofInternationalLawbylookingintotheoristsandthedefi
nitionstheyhavegiventhroughoutthe20thcentury.
Finallythischapterlooksintotraditionalclassificationsof
GeneralPrinciplesaswellasashortreferencetoexamples
oftheiruseintheICJjurisprudence.
Thesecondpart,afterrecognizingthatthereisgener
allyaformofskepticismtowardsGeneralPrinciples,
movesintolookingatwhatweidentifyasthetwomajor
reasonsforthisskepticism,namelythefearofjudicialdis
cretionandthedisapprovalofincorporatingthewords
SourcesofLawinTransi ti on
RevisitingGeneralPrinciplesofInternationalLaw
MariaPanezi

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