The Iran-Iraq War: The Politics of Aggression

By Farhang Rajaee | Go to book overview

11
International Law: Observations and Violations

BAHMAN BAKTIARI

Since the days of antiquity, sovereign political units have sought to regulate their relations by adopting rules and institutions designed to replace self-help and violence as prevalent methods for settling disputes. Historically, international law is a set of rules and principles of action that are binding on civilized states in their relations with one another. Rules of international law have existed since humans began to organize into political communities, where they felt the need of some system of rules, however rudimentary, to regulate their intercommunity relations. Thus, the adequacy of international law is a function of its acceptability.

Beginning in the sixteenth century, the writings of great scholars of international law refined its context and purpose so that it could become a major source of identification among states. Francisco de Vitoria wrote about the justice of Spanish conquests in America in 1557. Alberico Gentili ( 1598) and Francisco Suárez ( 1612) elaborated on the doctrines of just and unjust war, maintaining that a war was considered just if it was fought in self-defense, that is, against external attack, or if its purpose was to punish wrongdoers. They further differentiated natural law (jus naturale) from the law practiced by nations (jus gentium). Dutchman Hugo Grotius established himself as the "father of international law" with the publication of his famous book De Jure Belli ac Pacis (Law of War and Peace) in 1625. 1

Thus, since its modern inception, the central focus of international law has been to limit or justify war and violence in international relations. 2 In the nineteenth century, new laws of neutrality established def-

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