Lunch seminar with Matina Papadaki

Reconceptualising general principles: A look at the case law of the ICJ and PCIJ

General principles of law and general principles of international law are notions that defy common agreement and continue to spark controversy amidst international legal scholars and practitioners. The main focus of theoretical debates centres around their validity of principles as legal norms, a debate linked to their origin (domestic, natural, international law or precepts of logic).  

In this presentation, we advance a different two-pronged approach; first general principles in international law are defined as a category of norms of high generality or abstraction that can stem from a multiplicity of law making (jurisgenerative) processes, and second they serve a wide variety of functions. The first part of the definition focuses more on their normative quality rather than their origin, and the second part highlights their different uses in the context of adjudication. General principles are a composite normative concept in terms of both pedigree and function. Adopting this approach influences the analysis of the case law by shifting the focus from provenance and legal validity to their nature and to the synergies with other norms of international law. This reconceptualisation is supported by an inductive approach, beginning from the use of principles in the case law with a view to providing a more sophisticated understanding of the variety of meanings of general principles in international law as applied by the International Court of Justice.

After analyzing the different categories of principles and their relationship with other sources, according to the suggested approach, we will delve into examples drawn from the case law of the ICJ and the PCIJ to illustrate the impact of this reconceptualization of general principles.


All interested are welcome to attend. Registration is not necessary.

Feel free to bring your own lunch bag.