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International Law Reports Now Available Online

International law is comprised of many different sources, most famously summarized in Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice, the current “world court.”  Today the most common sources of new international law are treaties, which are analogous to legislation within a municipal system.  Other sources include customary norms,  “general principles of law recognized by civilized nations,” and “the teachings of the most highly qualified publicists”.   However, judicial decisions are also important, including those of both international courts and tribunals, as well as those of national courts applying international law.

In general, decisions of national courts (especially those in civil law countries) are among the most difficult foreign legal sources to locate, and usually are not available in English.  However, the International Law Reports offer a well edited and authoritatively translated collection of national case reports applying international law.  I.L.R. began publication in 1950, but includes decisions back to 1919.  It includes a number of indexes, including a helpful index by treaty and treaty article.  The indexes are republished in consolidated form on an occasional basis, but there are usually a number of volumes of reports that are too recent to be included in the consolidated indexes, and must be consulted individually.

The Law Library has collected I.L.R. since it began publication.  Now the Library has also added electronic access to I.L.R., which should make the set more convenient to use.  The electronic version offers boolean full-text searching, as well as searching by various other criteria, including party names, citation to original case reporter, court, year of decision, headnote, and subject (really catch-phrases).  The search screen is customizable, and new search criteria may be added.  The full text display is not in PDF format, but does include star pagination to the printed I.L.R.  The online cases also contain internal links to cited decisions that are elsewhere in I.L.R.

Unfortunately, the online version of I.L.R. does not include the index by treaty and treaty article.  However, there is always more than one way to skin a cat.  In the online version, you can use the treaty and specific article as search terms.  But there are several qualifications here.  First, you should search both the headnote field and the subject field in separate searches, since it is impossible to “or” the two fields together in a  single search, and the terms could appear in either field, or both.  You should also search for the term “article?” rather than “article”, since there are frequently multiple articles of a given treaty in question.  With these simple caveats, it should be possible to search the electronic version of I.L.R. easily and conveniently from your desktop!

One Response to “International Law Reports Now Available Online”

  1. John Louth Says:

    Whilst ILR has a grand tradition behind it, it falls far behind the Oxford Reports on International Law ( in speed of reporting, breadth of coverage of international tribunals, and in the reporting of recent domestic cases (the Oxford Reports added nearly 200 of these in the last year alone) and which includes full text of the original decisions, commentaries by local experts, and translations. Since ILR only digested cases until the 1950s it has no full text decisions from the PCIJ, or the first few years of the ICJ. The Oxford Reports has all of these in full.

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