Prescriptive or Permissive? Part II

Added to these major international normative regimes, as discussed in the Part I of this essay, is the vast network of International Institutions and Tribunals which are the repositories and enforcers of compliance with these norms. There are specialist agencies working in every area and in every country. And the countries they cannot work in, such as, North Korea, they are still so industrious to able to bring a 300 page report on Human Rights violation.

There are permanent, specialized, ad hoc, institutionalized, dispute settlement bodies covering all the topics of International Law which Lassa Oppenheim could think of. ICJ, PCA, ICC, ITLOS, LCA, WTO Dispute settlement panels, Special Tribunals for Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Yugoslavia, Cambodia, phew! And so many of them come with binding clauses. Non participation in them invokes international criticism, brings down you reputation a notch, a significant currency to pay with in international life. Case in point – China’s non participation in Philippine initiated arbitration in ITLOS. China is legally not obliged to take part in the proceedings, it has a strong backing of UNCLOS, yet it is being blamed for disrupting peace in the region.

I believe that International Law is so prescriptive, that a singular subject matter is wrapped over and over in laws and regulations, with multiple agencies having concurrent jurisdiction on the matter. This has become such a problem that the scholarly debates are turning to discuss and debate ‘Fragmentation of International Law’. Case in point – Marine Organisms are covered by UNCLOS, Biodiversity Convention, TRIPS, and a national legislation, if God forbid, they happen to fall under some territorial sea or EEZ. (In the context of Marine Genetic Resources, a fantastic topic)

International Law hasn’t remained what it was. I think one would agree with me, that it has become prescriptive to the extent that this discussion should include the Constitutional structure of International Law which is building up organically as States are involving themselves more and more in their International lives. Where the head of states are considering it imperative to spend equal amount of time abroad (Indian Prime Minister), and some aspiring head of state has to defend her foreign policy conduct in front of a senate committee (Hillary Clinton).

Hence, excusing my limited abilities of empirical research, I submit to you this brief survey of page 3 happenings in International Law, as I plead that International Law is largely prescriptive.

Now, if I have another afternoon free, and I can come up with ideas on how International Law is permissive, I shall post it here!

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