A basic introduction to international legal research in the Peace Palace Library. Your road map for approaching an international legal research problem. Step 1.
Treaty research is generally carried out first when handling an international legal research project. Article 38(1)(a) of the Statute of the International Court of Justice states that the Court shall apply 'international conventions, whether general or particular, establishing rules expressly recognized by the contesting states' as a source of law in reaching decisions. The phrase 'international conventions' is generally interpreted broadly. It is meant to include not only international conventions but all other designations, such as the word treaty that - according to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969) - is used for 'an international agreement concluded between States in written form and governed by international law'. Other examples are protocol, accord, act, charter, or covenant, among other instruments. While there are subtle distinctions among these designations, they may fairly be lumped together for purposes of conducting treaty research.
For conducting thorough treaty research it is important to have a solid grasp of the treaty-making process and to have an understanding of where and how to find collections of treaty documents. It is advisable to collect as much information as possible related to any particular treaty. So find the authoritative text, identify the depositary, and check the status of the treaty: identify signatories and parties to the treaty, determine the signature, ratification, acceptance, approval, accession and entry into force dates, find and read the reservations, understandings and declarations, etc.
There are different types of treaty collections that will help you to decide where to begin your treaty research project. Treaty collections may be differentiated based on their scope and coverage. They may be general, historical, national, regional, or restricted to a particular subject area. A combination of these types of treaty collections also exists. Some examples:
- United Nations Treaty Series (1946- current) [print] [HeinOnline]
- League of Nations Treaty Series (1920-1946) [print] [HeinOnline]
- Consolidated Treaty Series (1648-1920)
- United States Treaties and Other International Agreements (1950- current)
- European Treaty Series (1949-2004)
- Council of Europe Treaty Series (2004- current)
The Peace Palace Library Catalogue is your gateway to the various treaty collections. We offer access to all types of collections - electronically or in print, and cover all topics of international law. The Peace Palace Library Research Guides, prepared and maintained by our team of Law Librarians, are another powerful tool to find treaty collections. The Research Guides suggest certain collections, treaty compilations, databases and other materials considered indispensable for doing treaty law research on your specific topic.
You might consider our Library Instruction on how to conduct legal research in the Library at all levels.
- Guide to International Legal Research, Fifth Edition, Newark, LexisNexis Matthew Bender, 2003.
- Hoffman, M.B. and R.C. Berring Jr., International Legal Research in a Nutshell, Second Edition, St. Paul, West Academic Publishing, 2017.
- Kuehl, H.F. and M.A. O'Brien, International Legal Research in a Global Community, Durham, Carolina Academic Press, 2018.
- Winer, A.S., M.A.E. Archer, and L. Louis-Jacques, International Law Legal Research, Durham, Carolina Academic Press, 2013.