Suppose you’re researching an international legal issue for the first time. What are some good places to start?
If you begin with the library’s research guide on International Law (IL), you will find definitions of IL and related concepts, video discussions on the scope of IL and a frequently cited summary of the IL sources (listed in Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice). To get started with your topic, starting places include secondary sources, such as the major treatises listed in the guide, the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, and journal articles that explore international legal topics.
Research guides, including our guides on sources of IL (e.g., Treaties) and topical issues (such as International Trade or Human Rights research), can be helpful in locating and working with primary sources and specialized tools. Other research guides include those provided by NYU’s GlobaLex, the American Society of International Law (ASIL), and ASIL’s Electronic Information System for International Law (EISIL).
Current awareness resources include blogs, subscription news updates and the news bureaus of the United Nations and other international organizations. These can be great tools for picking a paper topic, gathering information on recent developments and monitoring your topic as you work.
This graphic (International Law Visualized) provides a basic overview of some IL bodies and concepts that may assist in your research.
If you need help or have questions about resources, contact a reference librarian.
Few topics get more attention around the world than human rights, but many students are uncertain about the source and scope of those rights.
If you are researching the topic, the library’s research guide is one starting place. As with most international law topics, consulting a good secondary source, such as a leading treatise or the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, is often a great way to identify primary documents and learn about enforcement mechanisms.
The most prominent arena for international human rights law is the United Nations apparatus, which includes:
A relatively new UN process is called Universal Periodic Review, which provides a regular assessment of every UN member state’s human rights record.
Other human rights systems include the regional systems in Europe, the Americas and Africa–each with its own conventions, commissions and tribunals.
Many sources provide ongoing coverage of human rights developments around the world, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch; blogs, such as Human Trafficking Search and Immigration Prof Blog; news agencies of the UN and U.S. State Department (and the Department’s Human Rights Reports); and international news sources, such as the BBC and Reuters.
Other research guides that may provide relevant guidance include our guides to Treaty Research, Refugee & Asylum Law and International Courts & Tribunals.
As more and more periodicals move to electronic versions, our traditional model of finding and reading the news is evolving. In light of this reality, the Law Library is constantly evaluating and seeking ways to make your access to these sources as easy and economical as feasible. Many of the most commonly requested resources are available in multiple formats on our various databases: Think Bloomberg Law, WestlawNext and Lexis Advance or Lexis Academic, but we also have a myriad of other databases available to assist you. This list is by no means exhaustive but will help you find the majority of our Newspaper resources:
- First try this BU Law Library Research Guide
- All full-time BU Law Students in residence have access to a new New York Times group pass. (Details were sent to you under separate cover. Come see the Reference Desk with any questions
- The Boston Globe and The Wall Street Journal are available on the Proquest Digital platform HERE.
- Looking for an international title in full-color display? Try Press Display which features currently over 260 newspapers from around the globe.
Still cannot find what you are looking for? Come visit one of us at the Reference Desk. We are happy to help.
In addition to the new Oxford Legal Research Library mentioned earlier this week, the Library has just also added the Global Arbitration Review to its offerings covering international arbitration.
The GAR is a respected current awareness and news tool that provides daily updates if you subscribe using your BU e-mail address. It also compiles an annual “GAR 100″ and “GAR 30″ report that ranks top international arbitration firms based on their proprietary formula.
This is a screen shot of the sign-in page highlighting the multiple types of information available to researchers:
One important subscription limitation to note is the fact that our subscription only allows for viewing and downloading of current materials. Archived items may only be viewed and may not be saved or downloaded.
The United Nations Human Rights Committee (HRC) issued a forceful report this week on the human rights record of the United States under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The report is linked here.
The committee’s “concluding observations” included 22 numbered sections detailing areas of concern and recommendations. These included topics that have been commented on frequently (NSA surveillance and privacy rights, the death penalty, targeted killings by drones and racial profiling) and a range of other concerns (from voting rights and the “criminalization of homelessness” to non-consensual psychiatric treatment and domestic violence). The report includes recommendations in all of these areas; and calls on the United States, among other things, to report on its compliance with several of the HRCs’ recommendations within one year, and to provide information on implementation of all the recommendations in its next periodic report, five years from now.
The HRC is one of the “treaty bodies” (or panels of experts) that receives reports from member states on their obligations under international human rights conventions. After receiving the member state’s report and hearing from, e.g., human rights and other “civil society organizations” about that state’s compliance or non-compliance with the convention, the treaty body issues its “Concluding Observations,” in which it states its principal matters of concern and recommendations.
Other UN treaty bodies include, e.g., the Committee Against Torture, which monitors implementation of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Punishment or Treatment; and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women).
In addition to the treaty bodies, the UN’s human rights apparatus includes the Human Rights Council, a body of 47 UN member states elected by the General Assembly and based in Geneva that coordinates human rights activities for the UN; and the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights, the part of the UN’s Secretariat, or permanent bureaucracy, that works to advance human rights by, e.g., speaking out on human rights issues, coordinating activities with human rights organizations and other UN bodies and providing assistance to national governments.
It has a certain, je ne sais quoi, and is a powerful new online tool to consult when researching the laws of foreign jurisdictions….. The site allows searching across multiple countries and includes materials pulled from government websites as well as primary and secondary materials. There are even newspapers from many countries available.
Best feature? Everything can be translated out of the original source language into another language of your choosing and the translations, while not official, are enhanced by vLex to provide better legal translations than otherwise available with online translation sources.
(We do ask you to please close out of your session after using vLex to allow others to sign onto the database as our subscription is limited to a select number of open sessions. Thanks!)
Looking for material regarding the EU? Check out Europa, the EU’s official website. It’s got legal and legislative information, publications, statistics, guides for teachers, and more!
If you have an interest in practicing or studying international law, you may have heard of the American Society of International Law (ASIL).
A student membership includes access to several ASIL publications, including the American Journal of International Law and the ASIL Newsletter. In addition to its traditional publications, ASIL offers a range of electronic, video and career development resources, as well as numerous topical guides, papers and conferences.
Tomorrow, ASIL wraps up its annual meeting in Washington, D.C. (The program, including a description of all the educational programs, can be viewed here.) For future reference, please note (on the Registration tab) that students get very substantial discounts to attend, with access to educational programs, receptions and exhibits at the meeting.
If you are conducting research a treaty to which the United States is (or may be) a party, free Internet resources provide some of the most useful tools available. Some tips on using these free sources follow.
One example of a treaty that was recently considered by the Senate is the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (“the Convention”). Late in 2012, there was much news coverage of the Senate’s failure to ratify the Convention. To check on recent treaty actions in the Senate, a good first stop is Thomas, the Congressional web site. In Thomas’ Treaties section, a simple search (“disabilties”) in the 112th Congress leads to information about the Convention, identified as Treaty no. 112-7; Senate Executive Report 112-6, which accompanies the treaty; and the Senate vote on December 4, 2012. However, Thomas does not link out to these reference documents or more details.
For the text of the treaty documents, go to the Government Printing Office web site, FDSys, which provides access to Congressional Documents; that includes Senate Treaty Documents for each recent Congress, including the 112th. Treaty Document 112-7 is available in PDF there. Likewise, Executive Report 112-6 is available; to find it, run a search (e.g., “senate executive report 112-6″) on the FDSys main page. The Senate’s web site provides information on roll-call votes, including the December 4 vote on the Convention. (Because the 61-38 vote fell 6 votes short of a two-thirds majority, ratification was rejected.) Continue Reading »