Kōrero: International law

Whārangi 2. Who is subject to international law?

Ngā whakaahua

State-to-state relationships

Some of the rules of international law govern the 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 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. Settlements like these also define the rights of individuals and companies to catch and consume fish. The controls established also help determine whether fish populations will be sustainable in the future.

The state and individuals

Other rules apply to the relations between states and their citizens and residents. International agreements impose certain 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 those 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, for instance, 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 themselves. 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.

Me pēnei te tohu i te whārangi:

K. J. Keith, 'International law - Who is subject to international law?', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/mi/international-law/page-2 (accessed 23 September 2019)

Story by K. J. Keith, published 20 Jun 2012