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George W. Hopper Law Library|College of Law

Treaties and International Law

Definitions

    International law "...consists of rules and principles of general application dealing with the conduct of states and of international organizations and with their relations inter se [between themselves], as well as with some of their relations with persons..."(Restatement (Third) of Foreign Relations Law §101 (1987).

    There is general agreement that Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice (59 Stat. 1055) accurately states the sources of international law; they are:

  • International conventions (i.e. international agreements);
  • International custom; and
  • "The general principles of law recognized by civilized nations."

"...[J]udicial decisions and the teachings of the most highly qualified publicists..." are recognized as "subsidiary means for the determination of rules of law."

    "Treaty" is one of many terms used to describe an international agreement. An international agreement has been defined as "...an agreement among two or more states or international organizations that is intended to be legally binding and is governed by international law" (Restatement (Third) of Foreign Relations Law §301 (1987)). Other designations for an international agreement include: convention, agreement, protocol, covenant, act, exchange of notes, and memorandum of understanding.

    In the U.S. the term treaty refers specifically to an international agreement that must receive the consent of 2/3 of the Senate in order to go into effect. However, the term is most often used in its broadest sense; that is, as a synonym for international agreement.

    There are three forms of international agreement in the U.S. which do not require the consent of 2/3 of the Senate:

  • Congressional-Executive agreements;
  • Executive agreements pursuant to treaty; and
  • Sole executive agreements.

(See Restatement (Third) of Foreign Relations Law §303 (1987)).

Researching International Agreements of the United States

Treaties in Force

     To determine what international agreements are in effect for the U.S., use Treaties in Force (JX 235.9 .A33). Bilateral treaties are organized according to the country with which they are in force, subdivided by subject. Multilateral treaties are arranged by subject. In each case, only the names of the treaties and citations to them are given, not the text.

Modern Treaty Texts (1950-)

    International agreements are first officially published in "slip" form (individual pamphlets) in the Treaties and other International Acts Series (TIAS) (JX 231 .A34). Publication of international agreements in this series is about 10 years late.

    The permanent, bound version of the international agreements of the U.S. is called the United States Treaties and Other International Agreements series (U.S.T.) (JX 231 .A36 1984). It is over 20 years behind.

    Fortunately, there are several alternative sources for recent U.S. treaties. Three of them available in the Law Library are:

1.  International Legal Materials (S-W-17) selectively prints important international legal documents involving any nation, not only the U.S. There is a subject index in each issue and a cumulative index for each year. This title is available in the Law Journals Library in HeinOnline dating back to 1962.

2.  "Treaty Documents" (sent by the President to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) contain the text of treaties recently signed by the President, along with explanations of the treaty and reasons the President believes the Senate should give its advice and consent. The Law Library has these documents on microfiche in the cabinets at the back of the basement. This set is adjacent to the microfiche cabinets. Treaty Documents are listed under the heading "S385". The listing for each document gives a Superintendent of Documents classification number (starting with Y1.1/4; e.g., Y1.1/4:104-23 is Treaty Document number 23 from the 104th Congress) under which it is filed in the microfiche cabinets.  Some of these materials can also be located in ProQuestCongressional, available from the Law Library Databases page.

3.  Westlaw's USTREATIES database contains recent US treaties from several sources TIAS, beginning with no.10869 (1979); Senate Treaty Documents, beginning with the 103d Congress (1993); State Department documents, beginning with no.90-1 (1990); and the Statutes at Large from 1778 to 1949.

Indexes to Modern Treaty Texts

    As noted above, Treaties in Force functions as an index to all U.S. treaties that are still effective. In addition, United States Treaty Index: 1776-1990 Consolidation (JX 231 .U58 1995-) indexes all treaties, whether in force or not, up to close to the present date.

Current Treaty Information

    National newspapers, such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, often have articles about treaties in the draft stage or those being considered by the Senate. Our copies of these newspapers are in the newspaper rack in the Student Lounge.  We keep back issues for several weeks in the work room. Ask for these at the Circulation Desk. Both of these are also available electronically in the library catalog. Enter the title and select All Libraries.

    The monthly Department of State publication, Dispatch, has a "Treaty Actions" section that contains very current information about treaties that the U.S. has just entered into and about multilateral treaties of the U.S. to which other states have recently acceded.   This title ceased in 1999.

Older Treaty Texts (before 1950)

    From 1845-1949 treaties were published in the Statutes at Large. Treaties with Indian tribes are collected in volume 7 and other U.S. treaties created before 1845 were published in volume 8. Executive agreements were not published in the Statutes at Large until 1931.  The Statutes at Large can be accessed through a number of sites, including ProQuestCongressional, referenced above, and the free internet site for the Library of Congress.

    A frequently cited source for pre-1950 treaties and executive agreements is Bevans, Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America, 1776-1949 (JX 236 .A5 1968-1976).

    Another source for U.S. treaties with Indian tribes is Kappler, Indian Treaties, 1778-1883 (KF 8203 .A1 .N3 1972), also available online.

Indexes to Older Treaty Texts

    Bevans, noted iabove, includes an index.

    United States Treaty Index: 1776-1990 Consolidation covers older treaties.

Unperfected Treaties

    Treaties that are signed by the President but are never given the advice and consent of the Senate are known as unperfected treaties. The only compilation of these is Wiktor, Unperfected Treaties of the United States, 1776-1976 (JX 236 1776 .U56 1976-1994).

International Agreements of Other Countries

    The Law Library does not have many treaties to which the U.S. is not a party. These are contained in sets such as: Consolidated Treaty Series; League of Nations Treaty Series; and United Nations Treaty Series. However, as noted above, International Legal Materials (S-W-17) selectively prints important treaties of countries other than the U.S.

    In addition, some of the international agreements of foreign countries are available online.  

Treaty Information Online

Lexis and Westlaw

Treaty and foreign law content are some of the last materials to migrate from the old platforms of Lexis and Westlaw to their new platorms, LexisAdvance and WestlawNext. However, they are still accessible through the previous sites.   

Lexis' European Union treaties are available by selecting Area of Law by topic, International Law, and then Treaties and International Agreements; many tax treaties are found here, and the GATT file has the text of the Uruguay round modifications of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

    Westlaw's USTREATIES database contains the text of current U.S. treaties from official sources.

Internet Sources of International and Foreign Law

American Society of International Law

Cornell's Legal Information Institute

Department of State's Foreign Affairs Network

International Court of Justice

Library of Congress

United Nations

University of Chicago

Washlaw Web: Foreign and International

World Legal Information Institute

International Law in General

Digests of U.S. Practice

    Explanations of international law based on the practice of states; recent digests cover only the U.S. perspective and practice.

Wharton, International Law Digest (2d ed., 1887) (JX 237 .W5 1887).

Moore, International Law Digest (1906) (JX 237 .M7 1906).

Hackworth, Digest of International Law (1940-1944) JX 237 .H3 1940-1944).

Whiteman, Digest of International Law (1963-1973) (JX 237 .W55 1963-1973).

Cumulative Digest of United States Practice in International Law (1974--) (JX 237 .D5 1981-1988) Updated 4x per year in "Contemporary Practice of the United States Relating to International law" section of the American Journal of International Law (S-E-13).

Judicial decisions on international law

Hudson, World Court Reports (1969) JX 1971.5 .A63 1969) Permanent Court of International Justice opinions, 1922-1942.

International Court of Justice, Reports of Judgments, Advisory Opinions and Orders (1947-) (JX 1971.6 .A244 1947-) Picks up from World Court Reports.

International Law Reports (covering 1919-) (JX 1971 .L38) English language versions of the decisions from various countries concerning international law.

Dictionaries and encyclopedias

Fox, Dictionary of International & Comparative Law (Reference KZ 1161 .F69 1997).

Parry, et. al., Encyclopaedic Dictionary of International Law (Reference KZ 1161 .P37 2004).

Bernhardt, Encyclopedia of Public International Law (JX 1226 .E5 1992).

Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law (2012) (Reference KZ 1160 .M39 2012).

Treatises

Buergenthal, Public International Law in a Nutshell (5th ed., 2013) (Reserve JX 3091 .B84 2013).

Janis, International Law (5th ed., 2008) (KZ 3140 .J36 .A35 2008).

Jennings, Oppenheim's International Law (9th ed., 1992-). (JX 3264 .I6 1992).

Schachter, International Law in Theory and Practice (1991) (JX 3091 .S264 1991).

Winer, International Law Legal Research (2013) (KZ 1234 .W565 2013).

Check the online catalog for other books on international law.

Restatement

Restatement (Third) of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States (1987)(Reference, M-C-4). Deals with "international law as it applies to the United States and...domestic law that has substantial significance for the foreign relations of the United States or has other substantial international consequences."

Journal articles

Use HeinOnline, available from the Databases button on our library web page, or Westlaw or Lexis to find law review articles on international law topics.

Research guides

Mersky, Fundamentals of Legal Research (8th ed., 2002) (Reserve, KF 240 .J32 2002)

Schaffer, Contemporary Practice of Public International Law ( 1997) (KZ 1234 .C66 1997) Detailed guide to research on international law.

Guide to International Legal Research, 2012 (JX 1297 .G84)

 

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