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The Conception of International Law as a Legal System

German Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 50, pp. 393-405, 2008

13 Pages Posted: 24 Apr 2008 Last revised: 29 Apr 2008

Eyal Benvenisti

University of Cambridge Faculty of Law

Abstract

Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of the German approach to public law in general and to public international law in particular is the systemic vision: the effort to envision the various legal norms as arranged within a hierarchy, composing together a coherent, logical order. This essay highlights what I believe to be the contribution of this systemic vision to international law and politics. This approach has contributed significantly to the emergent conception of international law as a legal system. The system of norms constitutes a map that guides lawyers in their search for applicable norms, and empowers judges to fill lacunas, interpret treaties, manage the interface between different treaties, and in general develop and further solidify the system. Probably the most significant political outcome of the vision of international law as a legal system is the empowerment of courts to develop international law beyond the intention of governments, and the equalizing effect of a coherent and consistent interpretation and application of the law. The essay also mentions a few contemporary challenges to this vision, in particular the fragmentation of the law and the turn to informal arrangements.

Keywords: international law, comparative law

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Benvenisti, Eyal, The Conception of International Law as a Legal System. German Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 50, pp. 393-405, 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1124882

Eyal Benvenisti (Contact Author)

University of Cambridge Faculty of Law ( email )

Lauterpacht Centre for International Law
5 Cranmer Centre
Cambridge, CB3 9BL
United Kingdom

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