The traditional and widely accepted definition of international law is that it is that branch of public law which regulates the relations of states and of other entities which have been granted international personality. The definition under the American Third Restatement is that it is the law that deals with the conduct of states and international organizations, their relations with each other and, in certain circumstances, their relations with persons,natural or juridical.
Although international law is not really law because it does not comply with John Austin's concept of law, to wit, it is not enforced by a sovereign political authority, it still can be given force and effect. The absence of a central law-making authority and the debilitating jurisdictional defects weaken the expectation of compliance in comparison with the situation in the domestic plane.
These considerations, however, are balanced by the risk of political and economic retaliation and other sanctions, such as adverse public opinion, retorsions, reprisals, the United Nations machinery, and the conviction that obedience will redound to the public good. As has already been mentioned, International Law is not promulgated by any legislative body. It consists of rules and principles which govern the interaction of states and international organizations with each other.
Jeremy Bentham defined it as the body of legal rules, norms, and standards that apply between sovereign states and other entities that are legally recognized as international actors. The primary sources of international law, under Article 38(1) of the Statute of the International Court of Justice, are: 1) international treaties and conventions, 2) international customs, and 3) general principles of law. The secondary sources, under the same statute, are: 4) judicial decisions, and 5) writings of publicists. International law is not part of the municipal law of states.
Hence, it generally does not have force and effect to govern the internal affairs of a state. However, in practice, states adopt international law into their municipal law system through their constitutions or through local legislation. Sovereignty of States and Independence Sovereignty is the totality of the power, legal competence and privileges of a state arising from customary international law, and not dependent on the consent of another state. Independence is the freedom to conduct foreign relations without outside control. The right to independence is a natural aspiration of peoples but it is not an absolute freedom.
Valid restraints may consist in the obligation to observe the rights of other, treaty stipulations, and obligations arising from membership in international organizations. Yet again, intervention of states in the domestic or foreign affairs of another is not allowed. International disputes have to be settled by peaceful means. Under Article 2 of the United Nations Charter, even the UN is precluded from intervening in matters essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of a state, unless necessary to remove and prevent threats to the peace, breaches or acts of aggression.
Article 2 of the UN Charter states that the organization is based on the principle of sovereign equality of all its members. Thus, in Underhill vs. Hernandez 168 US 250, the Supreme Court refused to inquire into the acts of Hernandez (A Venezuelan military commander whose government was later recognized by the US) in a damage suit brought in the US by an American who claimed that he had been unlawfully assaulted, coerced and detained by Hernandez in Venezuela. However, in Republic of the Philippines vs.Marcos 806 Fd. 344, US Court of Appeals, the principle of sovereign immunity invoked by Marcos was not appreciated inasmuch as there was no evidence adduced which showed that the acts were made in a public capacity, i. e. that the Marcos wealth was obtained through official expropriation decrees and the like.
Besides, acts of torture, execution, and disappearance were clearly acts outside of President Marcos' authority and are not covered by the act of state doctrine.