Public international law


Public international law is the law that governs countries and, to a lesser degree, companies and individuals. Public international law has increased in importance with:

  • Increased international trade
  • Increased pressure to prevent human rights abuses
  • Increased interest in issues connected to climate change

If you have an issue affected by public international law, call us and we can recommend a specialist lawyer suitable for your particular legal issue.

What is public international law?

Public international law refers to the regulation of all public bodies. It is an important area of law which protects us as individuals from being exploited by the power of those in public service.

If you feel a public body has acted illegally, unreasonably, or has followed procedures incorrectly, then you may require a public law solicitor to challenge this. The Government decides what constitutes a public body and these include:

  • Government departments
  • Local authorities
  • Schools and universities
  • Police and Prison Service
  • Planning authorities

What issues fall within ‘public international law’?

Many public law issues often include violations of the Human Rights Act and it is therefore important to find a public law solicitor who also has the expertise to give advice on European law in the event that your case is escalated to the European Court of Human Rights.
Public international law also covers laws relating to:

  • The use of force in conflicts
  • International relations
  • How to treat prisoners

Failure to comply with these laws can result in perpetrators being tried in international courts.

Public international law deals with the acquisition of territory by states and the legal responsibilities of states towards one another. Public international law therefore deals with:

  • The treatment of different groups of people
  • International crimes
  • The treatment of refugees

For example, the rules governing the treatment of refugees were largely developed through the Geneva Convention, to which most countries are party to.

The Geneva Convention states that if a person is fleeing a country with a well-founded fear of persecution, and is unable or unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of their own state, then they should be offered protection in the safe country they travel to, provided that country is party to the convention. Reasons for persecution include:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Membership of a particular social group or political opinion

Using a solicitor

If you have faced mistreatment by a public body then you may appeal the decision through the relevant tribunal or ombudsman. If an appeal is not an available remedy then you may apply for judicial review. This allows your issue to be reviewed in court.

The judge will decide whether the powers performed by the public body are in line with other legal doctrines such as statute law. If the court finds the public body has acted unlawfully or outside of their given powers then the decision may be overturned. Once a decision has been made the judge will decide whether the losing party will have to pay the winning party’s legal costs, which is quite often the case.

Changes to public law will instigate permanent changes in the law, meaning that you have the power to stop the same problem happening to other people. For further information, see our FAQ page on public law.

If you have a public and international law issue that you require assistance with, it is vital to instruct a specialist lawyer who is apt to deal with the cross-border, cross-jurisdictional work that it is likely to entail. Contact Law works with specialist public international lawyers who are expert in handling all manner of public law matters. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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