Skip to main content

United Nations Research Guide: International Law

Guide to information created by the UN and the UN Family of Organizations. Grateful acknowledgement to Jim Church, University of California Berkeley Libraries, whose work is the basis for this guide.

United Nations and International Law

ASIL Electronic Resource GuideDesigned to be used by students, teachers, practitioners, and researchers as a self-guided tour of online resources covering important areas of international law.

Conventions & Declarations and in General Assembly Resolutions. Many famous international agreements are not treaties, but declarations or conventions passed by the General Assembly. Many have great symbolic significance, if less formal "weight" in international law.

International Criminal Court.  This is not part of the UN although it was established by treaty (the Rome Statute) negotiated within the UN.  It is an independent judicial body with jurisdiction over persons charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

International Court of Justice. The principal judicial organ of the UN system, its role is to settle legal disputes between states and provide advisory opinions on issues referred to it by UN agencies such as the General Assembly. See an interesting list of contentious cases.

International Law Commission. UN agency of independent legal experts working to codify international law. Upon occasion it also drafts proposals for international conventions.  Two of its major successes have been the drafing of the various Vienna conventions on the laws of treaties and diplomatic relations and the International Criminal Court.

International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. Independent judicial body established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to adjudicate disputes arising out of the interpretation and application of the Convention.

Researching the United Nations: Finding the Organization's Internal Resource Trails. Globalex overview of strategies for locating UN documents.

United Nations Commission on International Trade Law. Core legal body of the United Nations system in the field of international trade law.

United Nations and International Law. Gateway site to the work of the United Nations in the field of International Law, including information on the International Law Commission, the UN General Assembly (6th) Legal Committee, and more.

United Nations Research Guide: International Law.  Detailed guide to the work of the United Nations in international law, from the UN Dag Hammarskjöld Library.

United Nations and the Rule of Law.  Portal for key agreements and documentation on the role of the United Nations and the Rule of Law, specifically in the areas of peace and security, human rights and development.

United Nations Diplomatic Conferences Web Site. Many significant multilateral treaties are negotiated during the proceedings of diplomatic conferences.  This site provides a convenient searchable listing of these.  This also is a great little article on the drafting histories of international agreements (Travaux Préparatoires).

United Nations Treaty Collection.  Comprehensive online collection of all UN Treaties and International agreements. See also the section on Multiltateral Treaties Deposited with the Secretary General. 

The UN has been involved with several ad hoc tribunals established to bring justice to victims of international crimes. The Security Council established two ad hoc tribunals, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The UN has also been involved in various ways with the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). 

UN Books on International Law