What is International Law?

This is often a question I am asked. There are many aspects to international law. For example, environmental law is a facet of international law. There are Treaties and agreements such as the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Vienna Convention for Protection of the Ozone Layer, and the Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste. Those treaties and agreements were implemented and to be enforced by member countries and international tribunals, and such as by the World Trade Organization and regional trade organizations, including the European Free Trade Area, the Asia Pacific Economic Council (APEC), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

As for human rights, the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1350, is used for U.S claims against corporations committing alleged human rights violations abroad. The ATS provides that district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States, which in turn, courts have historically applied that test to cover such causes of action as torture, extrajudicial killing, genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, forced labor, slave labor, child labor, human trafficking, disappearances, prolonged arbitrary detention or arrest, forced exile, rights of association for labor organizations, and systematic racial discrimination.

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