Individuals as Subjects of International Law

18 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2008 Last revised: 12 Mar 2008

Mark Weston Janis

University of Connecticut School of Law

Abstract

Legal positivism has long provided the usual theory for comprehending international law. The typical positivist definition of international law is grounded on a subject-based differentiation between international and municipal rules. Positivism views international law as a set of rules with states as its subjects. Municipal law is thought of as pertaining to individuals who are subjects of a single state. This Article rejects the positivist subject based approach to international law and calls for a definition of the discipline that recognizes individuals as subjects of international law.

This Article is divided into three parts. First, it briefly reviews the development of the positivist theory of international law. Second, it tests the subject-based approach against some realities of international practice and shows that international law actually has long involved individual rights and obligations. Finally, it suggests that a different, albeit older, theoretical foundation for international law may be a better way to encompass individuals as subjects of international law.

Keywords: legal positivism, international law, individuals as subjects of international law

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Janis, Mark Weston, Individuals as Subjects of International Law. Cornell International Law Journal, Vol. 17, No. 61, 1984. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1101693 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1101693

Mark Weston Janis (Contact Author)

University of Connecticut School of Law ( email )

65 Elizabeth Street
Hartford, CT 06105
United States

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