Sample Term Paper
Legal systems may seem to be based on abstract notions of justice, but they are in fact embedded in normative systems. In order to understand the functioning – and the effect – of international law, we must, therefore, consider it to be a blend of law as an operating system as well as the law as a normative system. The one is not neatly embedded within the other but rather the two exist in tandem with each other, with one sometimes being stronger or more important while the other sometimes has greater relevance or force.
Before looking at how these two aspects of international law play out in two actual circumstances (the case of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and the usefulness of the Ottawa Convention), we should first define these two aspects of international law. The “operating system” element of international law (as of domestic legal codes) provides what might be seen as the nuts and bolts of the legal system, establishing and regulating general procedures, as well as institutions that different parties have determined, is necessary for them to conduct international relations. Ku and Diehl summarize the elements of both aspects of law as well as the ways in which they interact with each other on pp. 1-19.
Another way of looking at the “operating systems” aspect of international law is that is created (and maintains) mechanisms (agreed to by all parties concerned) that allow for the establishment of rules that govern the behavior of the countries involved. Legal operating systems also outline the boundaries of interaction between or among nations and – and this is the element of international law operating systems that tend to draw the greatest public attention – also provide all the procedures, protocols and forums that are found to be necessary to resolve disagreements between or among those nations who are parties to any particular international agreement. In general, the operating system element of international law may be viewed as the totality of the structures that are needed to maintain a system of international legal agreements.
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