Six (6) Differences Between International Law and Municipal Law

Differences Between International Law and Municipal Law: Laws are enactments which contain rules that regulate a given territory. Laws are body of binding rules and regulations, customs, standards and practices established by an appropriate authority to operate in a given territory. From these definitions, it follows that laws are territorial in nature. Thus, what applies in a given state does not bind another sovereign state.

International law are these body of laws accepted as binding in relations between states and between nations, which serves as a framework for the practice of stable and organized international relations. Put in a simple manner, international law binds the relation between states. Sovereignty is an instructive concept in international law; hence why it was earlier stated that laws are territorial in nature. Every nation enjoys sovereignty to its fullest and as such, every intervention in the state must be consensual.

The objective of international law is to maintain peace and harmony amongst states and in essence, maintaining world peace. International laws are focused on global concerns such as international trades and disputes, terrorism and other armed conflicts, human rights, diplomacy, and so on. The binding nature of international laws therefore is however subject to certain conditions, and these shall be highlighted in the course of discussing the differences between international law and municipal law.

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It must be noted that there is public international law and private international law. International law is often mistaken to be specific laws of various countries. Private international law is otherwise known as conflict of laws, and it better describes the analysis of the specific laws of various countries. Public international law is the international law proper, and it is our concern in this discourse.

Differences Between International Law and Municipal Law
Differences Between International Law and Municipal Law

Municipal laws on the other hand are the laws that apply to the internal affairs of a state. It is otherwise known as domestic or national law. Municipal laws bind only the state or territory for which it was made, and can only be enforced in such state. Municipal laws are enacted by the legislative body of the various states. All states have their municipal laws which regulate various sectors, conduct and practices in the state. Its breach renders one liable to direct punishments or in the case of civil laws, such orders as the court may make in the circumstance.

Municipal law generally differs from international law as it relates to its cope of operation, purpose, effect, enforcement mechanisms and other factors. These differences shall be highlighted in this article.

International Law vs Municipal Law
International Law vs Municipal Law

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Differences between International Law and Municipal law

1. Scope of application: International laws are focused on global concerns such as international trades and disputes, terrorism and other armed conflicts, human rights, diplomacy, and so on. Thus, it addresses matters that are of world’s concern. Thus, it applies globally. However, it does not interfere with the internal affairs of various states. Its force of law is only as it relates to relations with other states. On the other hand, municipal laws apply only to the specific state that made the law.

What is the difference between international laws and local laws?
What is the difference between international laws and local laws?

All states have their municipal laws which apply strictly within their borders. Municipal laws ay however apply to other states when the state consents by for instance, engaging in business with the state. Municipal laws can apply to foreigners who come as foreign investors in another state. Rules of conflict of laws may also warrant the application of the municipal law of a state to another state in a given circumstance.

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2. Binding effect: International laws are binding on states that have ratified or acceded to it. Thus, its binding nature is voluntary. A country can choose whether or not to accede to international enactments. Still on binding effect, international laws do not override domestic laws unless the states have adopted and enacted it as part of their domestic laws. It is noteworthy however that some states are monist states as opposed to dualist. Dualist states are those states that allow international enactments to apply to them only after they have enacted same. For monist states, international enactments apply to them directly upon ratification.

The event of taking force of law
International laws become binding on states after they have acceded, ratified and deposited the law. On the other hand, domestic or municipal laws take effect according the legal system where it applies. Generally, municipal laws take effect after being passed and signed into law by the legislative and executive body respectively.

3. Sources: International laws are derived from customary international laws, treaties and conventions. Customary international laws are those practices that though unwritten, have been observed by states, and are in accordance with what is just and conscionable. On the other hand, the sources of municipal laws are legislative enactments, the state’s customary laws, case laws, and so on.

Difference Between Municipal Law and International Law
Difference Between Municipal Law and International Law

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4. Enforcement mechanism: Enforcement of international laws poses more challenge because some states have more powerful than the other and various states enjoy their sovereignty. So, the enforcement mechanisms for breach of international laws are usually by sanctions such as economic sanctions and cutting of diplomatic tiles. International law relies heavily on voluntary compliance of states with the laws. The United Nations and the international court of justice (ICJ) have the power to impose sanctions and make other orders to maintain peace and security upon breach of any international law by any state.

However, they have been criticized for lacking any centralized system or mechanism for enforcement of its orders. On the other hand, enforcement of domestic or municipal laws poses little or no challenge because there is usually a decentralized mechanism for the enforcement of municipal laws in all states. Municipal laws can be enforced through the police and other law enforcement agencies of various states, the courts and other responsible government institutions. Penalties to breach of municipal laws comes by fines, imprisonment, committal to service, restrain orders and other remedies available in a civil action.

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5. Individuality: International law focuses on states collectively. It also applies to non-state actors and international organizations. Municipal laws however principally focus on individuals, although it does as well apply to domestic organizations and groups.

Relationship between Municipal and International law
Relationship between Municipal and International law

6. Interpretation: Municipal laws are interpreted by the courts and tribunals of the state where it applies. On the other hand, international laws are interpreted by the International Court of Justice, International Criminal Court and various international organizations such as the United Nations. Various international treaties were spawned by international organizations, and they have the duty to promote and see to its compliance. In such cases, they also have the duty to interpret the enactments spawned by them.

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International law is what binds the world together. There is need to have these frameworks as they regulate states’ conduct in international relations. Most of the international enactments were given rise to as a result of past events such as wars, terrorism and crises generally.

In order to promote world peace and prevent future similar occurrences, various organizations were formed, and various treaties and conventions were spawned. There are also guiding principles which are regarded as soft laws because they do not have binding effect; rather, they are merely persuasive standards. Municipal laws are also very vital because they regulate the affairs of the states specifically. Both categories of laws are what make the world a better place.