Handy Tip: Using Google ‘Define’

When studying law, understanding the terms that you use and how to use them is important. This is because a level of precision regarding language is needed within legal studies.

A lecturer once told me, “You can physically take a glass out onto the terrace, but you may not!” In these circumstances, knowing the difference between ‘must’, ‘shall’, ‘may’, ‘can’ or ‘cannot’ may help with your essay writing. It can improve the style of your writing and make the central argument and analysis more convincing.

Other times, you will be expected to use specialist legal terminology. If you are unsure, you  you should look up the terms in a legal dictionary. There are lots of physical copies of legal dictionaries in the UWE library, as well as, electronic copies that you can access online.

Additionally, you may read something in a journal article or book that you may not understand. I often underline this word and use ‘Google define’ to help me understand what it is and write a note in the margin to myself.

Using Google, if you type ‘define’ and then the word that you are looking for, it acts as an online dictionary. For example, if I were looking for the term ‘sanction’, I would type in ‘define sanction’ into Google. A box with definitions will then appear on your browser, like below!

screen-shot-2016-12-06-at-18-35-33

Just be aware that there may be one or more definitions for a given word. A sanction in law means something different from that used in ‘normal English’, so in that case, it would be worthwhile to consult a dictionary specifically for law.

Advertisements

Glossary: Public International Law

 

Learning public intewordclousrnational law can be a daunting task, particularly as it has lots of Latin maxims, acronyms and foreign words. It is for that reason that this post has been written; it serves as a glossary of terms that you may come across.

The glossary serves as a basic guide; it does not mean the definitions demonstrate the relevant source of law or how it is applied. In that regard, you should refer to the relevant source, for example, treaties or case law.

If using these terms in your assignments, remember that OSCOLA format requires that they are italicised. See: OSCOLA (p.8).

Term Definition
Amicus curiae Person or group with strong interest or perspective on the issue within a legal action. He/she/they may petition the court to file a brief to give further information or opinion on the matter. Amicus curiae are often filed in cases concerning public interest issues.

For example: Biwater Gauff (Tanzania) Ltd. v. United Republic of Tanzania ICSID Case No. ARB/05/22, 26 March 2007.

Amicus Curiae were submitted by:  The Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team, The Legal and Human Rights Centre, The Tanzania Gender Networking Programme, The Center for International Environmental Law, The International Institute for Sustainable Development.

CEDAW Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

See: CEDAW (adopted 18 December 1979, entered into force 3 September 1981) 1249 UNTS 13.

Compromis An agreement between States where they jointly submit materials on a particular dispute to the ICJ.

For further details, see: Statute of the International Court of Justice (adopted 26 June 1945, entered into force 24 October 1945) 33 UNTS 993, Article 36(1).

Convention See: Treaty.
Corpus jure Rules that form a self-contained specialised regime (e.g. international trade law, international human rights law, international humanitarian law etc).
Covenant See: Treaty.
Customary international law This is one of the main sources of public international law. It consists of two elements: opinio juris and state practice.

For further details, you should read: Hugh Thirlway, ‘The Sources of International Law’ in Malcolm Evans (ed), International Law (4th edn, OUP 2014) 91-117; Malcolm Shaw, International Law (7th edn, CUP 2014) 49-91.

De facto According to fact or the deed/in practice.

Note: Disctinction from de jure.

De jure In law or according to the law.

Note: Distinction from de facto.

Erga omnes Obligations of the State that are important enough to be deemed that they are owed to the international community as a whole. This includes matters, such as prohibition of genocide, slavery and racial discrimination.

For further details, see: Barcelona Traction, Light and Power Company Ltd (Belgium v. Spain) case, [1970] ICJ Rep 44.

Estoppel Requirement of consistency within legal arguments – ‘You cannot have it both ways’.

For further reading, see: Status of Eastern Greenland PCIJ Rep Series A/B No. 53, 70-71.

FAO Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Website: http://www.fao.org/home/en/

ICC International Criminal Court.

Website: https://www.icc-cpi.int

ICCPR International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

See: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (adopted 16 December 1966, entered into force 23 March 1976) 999 UNTS 171 (ICCPR).

ICESCR International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

See: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (adopted 16 December 1966, entered into force 3 January 1976) 993 UNTS 3.

ICJ International Court of Justice.

Website: http://www.icj-cij.org

ICRC International Committee of the Red Cross.

Website: https://www.icrc.org/en

ICSID International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes.

Website: https://icsid.worldbank.org/apps/ICSIDWEB/Pages/default.aspx

Ipso facto By the fact itself.
ITLOS International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. Website: https://www.itlos.org
ICC International Criminal Court

Website: https://www.icc-cpi.int

ICCPR International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

See: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (adopted 16 December 1966, entered into force 23 March 1976) 999 UNTS 171 (ICCPR).

ITLOS International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea

Website: https://www.itlos.org

Jus cogens (or ius cogens) Peremptory norms of international law. There is no derogation from these norms permitted.

You may want to read, Dinah Shelton, ‘International Law and ‘Relative Normativity’ in Malcolm Evans, International Law (4th edn, OUP 2014) 137-152.

Jus gentium (or ius gentium) Now often refers to the law of nations, but originally derives from Roman law.

It is a concept that is understood to mean that it is the law established among all people via natural reasoning.

Jus in bello (or ius in bello)

 

Law that governs the conduct of warfare. Sometimes it is referred to has international humanitarian law or the law of war.

Note: Distinct from jus ad bellum.

Jus naturale (or ius natural) Natural law.
Jus sanguinis The ‘right of blood’ or law relating to place of descent. A legal principle that an individual’s citizenship is determined by citizenship of his/her parent.

Note: Distinct from jus soli.

Jus soli The ‘law of the soil’. A legal principle that an individual determined by place of birth.

Note: Distinct from jus sanguines.

Lacunae Gaps in the law.
Law of Treaties Note: This is different from treaty law. The law of treaties concerns the procedure for the creation, negotiation and enactment of treaties and not the actual substance of a given treaty.

See: Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 23 May 1969, 1155 UNTS 331.

Lex feranda (or de lege feranda) Norms still evolving/developing into law e.g. the right to development is not yet a binding norm.

Sometimes refers to what the law ought to be.

Note: Contrast to lex lata.

Lex lata (or de lege lata) Well established law that is binding.

Often refers to what the law currently is. This is a contrast to lex feranda.

Lex mercatoria

 

Trade law. Often refers to international commercial law i.e. the market customs that are now part of binding (market) law on States.
Lex posterior (or lex posterior derogat priori) More recent law prevails over earlier inconsistent law.
Lex specialis (or lex specialis derogat generali) Specific or more specialised law prevails over general law.
Mare clausum Closed seas.
Mare liberum Freedom of the seas.
Mutatis Mutandis When what must be changed has been changed.
Non liquet The law is insufficient to provide a decision.
Opinio juris (pinion juris sive necessitates) Firmly held position/conviction/perception that a given behaviour is required by law. This often refers to a legal duty or obligation. It is a requirement before any norm can be considered as custom within international law.

It should be noted that this is distinct from behaviours that are habit or random behaviour.

See: Hugh Thirlway, ‘The Sources of International Law’ in Malcolm Evans (ed), International Law (4th edn, OUP 2014) 91-117; Malcolm Shaw, International Law (7th edn, CUP 2014) 49-91.

Pacta sunt servanda Doctrine that all agreements must be kept in ‘good faith’.

For further details, see: Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 23 May 1969, 1155 UNTS 331, Article 26.

PCIJ Permanent Court of International Justice was the predecessor of the ICJ. Some of the decisions made by the PCIJ are still relevant in international law and can be found on the ICJ website.

Website: http://www.icj-cij.org/pcij/index.php?p1=9

Peremptory norm A norm so important that derogation is not permitted. See: jus cogens.
Persona non grata An unwelcome/undesirable person. Generally refers to grounds for expelling or rejecting a diplomat.
Prima facie At first sight; based on first impressions.
Ratione materiae The material field of application of the law.
Ratione personae The personal field of application of a law.
Ratione temporae The temporal field of application of a law.
Rebus sic stantibus

 

‘Things staying as they are’.

The doctrine means that treaty obligations stay the same, as long as the conditions and expectations that existed remain the same. Otherwise, when a fundamental change in the underlying ethos or conditions of a treaty, it may be terminated or suspended.

 

Reservation

A formal statement made by a given State when it signs, ratifies, adopts, accedes to a treaty that modifies or excludes certain sections of the agreement.

For example: ‘The Government of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas does not consider itself bound by the provisions of article 2(a), … article 9, paragraph 2, … article 16(h), … [and] article 29, paragraph 1, of the Convention [in relation to CEDAW]’

See: Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 23 May 1969, 1155 UNTS 331, Article 2(1)(d).

Sine qua non Indispensable condition/pre-requisite.
 

Sources of Law

As there is no central legislature within public international law, so the sources of law (although are not exclusive to) come from three main places:

1)    Treaties;

2) Customary international law;

3) General principles.

Understanding the sources is important to understanding more complex topics within international law.

As a starting point, you should read: Hugh Thirlway, ‘The Sources of International Law’ in Malcolm Evans (ed), International Law (4th edn, OUP 2014) 91-117; Malcolm Shaw, International Law (7th edn, CUP 2014) 49-91.

See also: Statute of the International Court of Justice (adopted 26 June 1945, entered into force 24 October 1945) 33 UNTS 993, Article 38.

Terra (or res) nullius Land (or thing) belonging to no one.
 

UNCITRAL

United Nations Commission on International Trade Law

Website: http://www.uncitral.org/uncitral/en/about_us.html

 

UNCTAD

United Nations Commission on Trade and Development

Website: http://unctad.org/en/Pages/Home.aspx

 

UNHRC

United Nations Human Rights Council

Website: http://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/hrc/pages/hrcindex.aspx

 

Uti possidetis

‘That which you possess, you may continue to possess’

In a post-colonial context, see: Case concerning the Frontier Dispute (Burkina Faso v. Mali) ICJ Rep 1986, 554.

WTO World Trade Organization

Website: https://www.wto.org

ICESCR International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

See: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (adopted 16 December 1966, entered into force 3 January 1976) 993 UNTS 3.

ICJ International Court of Justice

Website: http://www.icj-cij.org

ICSID International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes

Website: https://icsid.worldbank.org/apps/ICSIDWEB/Pages/default.aspx

 

 

A Parliamentary Dictionary

This post is intended to give a brief overview with useful links to some of the terms which you may come across when using Parliamentary sources. There is a full glossary available on the Parliamentary website. The next post will give a guide to using the Parliamentary website.

Bill  – A series of proposals introduced to Parliament to amend, repeal or create a piece of Legislation.

See also:

Draft Bills 

Public Bills 

Private Bills 

Private Members’ Bills 

Hybrid Bills 

Cabinet – Leading ministers who are responsible for the operation, policy and running of government departments.

Committees – Committees of either the House of Commons, House of Lords or Joint Committees of both Houses perform a scrutinising role. They examine Bills and recommend amendments, hold inquiries to produce reports and scrutinise topical or specialist issues. Which work they undertake depends on the nature of the Committee.

See also:

Legislative Committee 

Select Committee 

Delegated Legislation – Regulations made by individual ministers under powers granted by primary legislation.

See also:

Statutory Instruments 

Devolution – A grant of limited power away from Parliament to other law-making bodies, for example the Scottish Parliament, Northern Ireland Assembly or Welsh Assembly.

Gunpowder Plot 1605 – A failed plot by Guy Fawkes and other conspirators to blow up the Houses of Parliament.

Hansard – The official report of proceedings in the Houses of Parliament.

Henry VIII clauses – Clauses in primary legislation which allow for amendment or repeal without further Parliamentary scrutiny.

House of Commons – The elected chamber of Parliament. It is made up of Members of Parliament who belong to a certain political party or sit as an independent. The major parties in the Commons are: the Conservative and Unionist Party (Conservatives), the Labour Party (Labour), the Scottish National Party (SNP), the Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems).

House of Lords – The unelected chamber of Parliament. It is made up of Peers, who are nominated to the Peerage by the Prime Minister and ennobled by the Monarch. They may sit under the whip of any of the parties, or as an independent.

Legislation – Law which has passed through both Houses of Parliament and received Royal Assent.

See also:

Acts of Parliament 

Delegated Legislation 

The Parliament Acts 

Member of Parliament (MP) – A representative elected under First Past the Post to represent their constituency in the House of Commons.

See also:

AM – Assembly Member (Wales) 

MLA – Member of the Legislative Assembly (Northern Ireland) 

MSP – Member of the Scottish Parliament 

Opposition – The official opposition to the government, made up of the largest party other than the governing party.

Parliamentary Privilege – Certain immunities which apply only within the Parliamentary estate.

Royal Prerogative – The powers given to the Monarch under the constitution.

Shadow Cabinet – The opposition equivalent to the cabinet, who hold cabinet members to account.

Written Questions – Questions tabled by ministers in writing, to which written answers are given.