Some of the rules of international law govern relations between states. Such rules have been applied to disputes between New Zealand and Japan over the definition of maritime areas and the exploitation of marine resources. Japan objected to New Zealand’s extension of its fisheries limits to 12 nautical miles (22 kilometres) in the 1960s and then to 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres) in the 1970s. These disputes were settled under international law, but such settlements do more than simply define the rights of New Zealand and Japan as nations. These settlements also defined the rights of individuals and companies to catch and consume fish. The controls established also helped determine whether fish populations would be sustainable in the future.
The state and individuals
Other rules apply to relations between states and their citizens and residents. International agreements impose obligations on states regarding their treatment of residents. For example, under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a state must accord a fair trial to individuals appearing in its courts. The right to a fair trial is incorporated in New Zealand legislation (written law), including the New Zealand Bill of Rights, and by many years of court rulings (precedent). International law also imposes obligations on individuals not to commit crimes of an international character, such as torture, war crimes and slavery. International law contains provisions for prosecution and extradition for crimes of this nature.
Relations between individuals
International law also covers relations between individuals.
New Zealand is party to more than 60 international labour conventions, which primarily operate between employers and employees. Some fix hours of work, holidays and minimum age of employment. Others provide for workers’ compensation and freedom of association, and prohibit forced labour and discrimination in employment.
Human rights treaties regulate both relations between the state and the individuals, and relations between individuals. New Zealand is a party to almost all of the principal conventions adopted within the United Nations since 1965.
Family law conventions, which regulate adoption, child abduction and recovery of family support, operate internationally.
The rights and duties of individuals or companies in international commerce and transport agreements are often determined by treaties. New Zealand is party to the United Nations Convention on the International Sale of Goods, and to conventions for the recognition and enforcement of awards made through arbitration (where disputes are decided by an arbitrator). The country has also signed up to conventions on collisions and salvage, carriage by air, and bills of lading (detailed lists of goods shipped). Bodies such as the International Chamber of Commerce facilitate international trade treaty negotiations by preparing standard form agreements.