International Legal Institutions: Meaning & Types

The development of international conventions and treaties indicates a growing understanding among the international community that the protection of individuals in times of war and peace is crucial to maintaining world peace and security and that nations' rights are restricted. Enforcing the limits is a crucial implication of creating the constraints. The focus now shifts to the institutions that have been established and put to use to guarantee that the laws of war and peace are correctly and efficiently enforced.

What is the Meaning of International Legal Institution?

International legal institutions are human−created systems of rules and norms that govern and regulate individuals’ behaviors. The most significant role of such institutions is to protect the interests and rights of every human being, irrespective of race, gender, and country of origin.

First time, after first world war, the concept of an international institution was proposed, and an attempt was made towards it; however, after the second world war, the concept was consolidated in the form of the United Nations. The primary objectives of the United Nations, according to the Charter, are −

  • to maintain international peace and security;

  • to develop and promote friendly relations among nations;

  • achieve international cooperation in solving economic, social, cultural, and humanitarian problems, and in promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; and

  • to be a center for harmonizing the actions of nations in attaining these ends.

Types of International Legal Institutions

The major types of international legal institutions are −

1. United Nation Security Council

The United Nations' member states concur to accept and implement the Security Council's decisions in conformity with the current Charter. Members of the UN agree that the Security Council has primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security and that, in carrying out its obligations under this responsibility, the Security Council acts on their behalf. This ensures that the UN takes timely and effective action.

The Security Council must act in accordance with the goals and tenets of the UN when performing these functions. The General Assembly will receive annual reports from the Security Council as well as special reports when needed.

According to Article 26 of the Charter, the Security Council is in charge of creating plans to be presented to the members of the United Nations for the establishment of a system for the regulation of armaments assisted by Military Staff Committee mentioned in Article 47 in order to promote the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security with the least diversion of the world's human and economic resources.

Proposed Reforms in the United Nations Security Council

The UNSC reform demands are based on five main concerns −

  • Characteristics of membership, (permanent and non−permanent).

  • The five permanent members control the veto issue.

  • Geographic representation

  • The size of an expanded council and its organizational structure

  • The connection between the General Assembly and the Security Council

2. International Courts

It includes −

  • International Court of Justice

  • International Criminal Court

  • International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea

I. International Court of Justice

The main court of the United Nations is the International Court of Justice. Its headquarters are located in the Hague, Netherlands, in the Peace Palace. The ICJ was established for the following reasons −

  • The Court's duties include providing advisory opinions on legal issues that have been referred to it by recognized United Nations bodies and specialized organizations as well as resolving legal disputes that governments have presented to it in conformity with international law.

  • The main court of the United Nations shall be the International Court of Justice. It will operate in accordance with the appended Statute, which is a key component of the current Charter and is based on the Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice.

  • The International Court of Justice Statute applies to all members of the United Nations by virtue of their membership.

  • Every member of the UN agrees to abide by the International Court of Justice's ruling in any dispute to which it is a party.

  • The International Court of Justice may be asked for advice on any legal issue by the General Assembly or the Security Council.

II. International Criminal Court (ICC)

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is a court of last resort for the prosecution of major international crimes, such as genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The ad hoc international tribunals established in the 1990s to deal with the atrocity crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda provided the impetus for the court. In July 1998, the Rome Statute, the court's founding treaty, was ratified, and it officially opened for business in 2003. Since then, the ICC has made strides in raising awareness of the need for accountability in bringing charges that resulted from investigations in the Central African Republic, Darfur, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda. The prosecution's failure to provide enough evidence for convictions is one of the court's performance flaws, nevertheless.

The ICC has also seen harsh political and legal hurdles, such as resistance to making arrests and insufficient funding from ICC member nations to handle its expanding caseload. The court's mandate has proven to be both more necessary and harder to carry out than its founders anticipated as international offenses involving human rights continue to multiply. The powers of the ICC are as follows −

  • Either the nation where the crime was committed is a signatory to the Rome Statute, or the nation where the offender was born is.

  • Only if the national court is unable or unwilling to exercise its authority, may the ICC do so. Only crimes committed after the Statute went into effect on July 1, 2002, are subject to the jurisdiction of the ICC.

III. International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS)

Located in Hamburg, Germany, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea is an intergovernmental organization. The ITLOS was created by the mandate of the 3rd United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea on December 10, 1982. The major objectives of the institution are to govern ocean space and the resources found there. And, in case of dispute (arising between two or more nations regarding the exploitation of the resources), its duty is to resolve it amicably.

3. International Arbitral Tribunals

It includes −

  • Permanent Court of Arbitration

  • WTO Appellate Body

  • WTO Dispute Settlement Panels

  • NAFTA Dispute Settlement Panels

  • International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes

  • Court of Arbitration for Sport

  • OSCE Court of Conciliation and Arbitration

International Legal Tribunals

International tribunals have two separate but connected functions. They first bring those responsible for fundamental violations of international law to account. The prosecution of those who violate the laws of war and the laws of peace is permitted by international judicial tribunals in this regard. Furthermore, the existence and effectiveness of international tribunals acts as a disincentive for future wrongdoing. People, from combat soldiers to political leaders, will be less likely to violate the law if they believe that their actions will be punished. In this way, deterrence, the tribunals' second goal, logically follows from the first.

Depending on their intended scope and duration, international law courts can be divided into two fundamental categories. They might only be made for a short period of time and for a specific reason. These tribunals are on−demand. They might also be established in order to consistently meet the needs of global society.


While the establishment of a permanent international legal institution and the legislation of international laws that specify what behavior is acceptable for states and individuals, respectively, represent landmark developments in international affairs. Initiatives have recently been made to give the international community even greater capabilities to address human suffering. The newly emerging Responsibility to Protect principles, reflects a desire to support nations' legal ability to intervene on humanitarian grounds.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What are the sources of international law?

Conventions, declarations, accords, treaties, and other documents, as well as customs etc. are the major sources. For instance, a global agreement on climate change is the Kyoto Protocol.

Q. What are the major roles of these international institutions?

Major roles of these international institutions are −

  • To legislate the international laws and rules to regulate the international affairs;

  • To resolve the dispute, arouse while practicing international affairs and maintain the friendly relationships among the different nations as well as among the individuals of different nations.

  • to protect the interests and rights of every nation and as well as human being, irrespective of race, gender, and country of origin.

Q. What is the meaning of international law?

International law comprises norms and principles that controls how States and individuals interact with one another, as well as how they interact with other international organizations.

Q. Why is international law important?

The creation of a body of international law, which is essential to advancing international peace and security as well as economic and social development, is one of the United Nations' greatest accomplishments.

Q. What are the characteristics of international law?

The characteristic of international law is that states with equal sovereign rights make up its main participants. Sanctions may be used to persuade an 'offending' state; nevertheless, international law is not imposed upon states, there is no legislative, and it is not required.

Updated on: 15-Dec-2022


Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started