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Copyright (c) 1999 Dickinson School of Law, Carlisle, PA
Dickinson Journal of International Law

ARTICLE: The Basis of International Law: Why Nations Observe

Winter, 1999

17 Dick. J. Int'l L. 287


Jianming Shen, S.J.D. *


I. Introduction
"Implementation, Compliance, and Effectiveness" was the main theme of the 91st Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law (ASIL) (1997). This theme reminded international law scholars about Professor Henkin's familiar and well-known statement with which the program description of the ASIL's meeting began: "Almost all nations observe almost all principles of international law and almost all of their obligations almost all of the time." 1 From this statement, one might infer the following: First, "almost all nations," except for a very small number, observe international law most of the time. Second, the phrase "almost all principles of international law and almost all...obligations" suggests that there may be very few international law principles and obligations that are not routinely observed by a given State(s). Third, there must be very few instances when States do not comply with international law, even with respect to those principles and obligations which they do routinely observe. The 91st ASIL Annual Meeting sought to address questions concerning (1) the degree to which States observe international law, (2) the reasons why they observe or disobey international law, (3) the enforcement or implementation of international law within the domestic legal system and (4) the effectiveness of the international legal system. Regarding these four questions, the first one has been thoroughly addressed in Professor Henkin's work. The second question is the primary focus of this article. The third and fourth questions, while related, present different broad issues that may be ...
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