Features – Keeping Current with International Law Via the Web

Jill Watson is the Director of Library and Information Services for the American Society of International Law (ASIL) in Washington, DC. In addition to managing the Library and serving a broad constituency that includes members of the Society, students, diplomats, teachers and practitioners from around the world, Jill works with the publications staff on such ASIL publications as the ASIL Newsletter, International Legal Materials and the American Journal of International Law. She is the author of the “Treaties” chapter and Co-Editor of the continuously updated online ASIL Guide to Electronic Resources for International Law. She has been involved in a variety of other activities for the Society such as designing and managing the ASIL institutional website, the “ASIL Insights Online” listserve, and participating in Annual Meeting panels, workshops and development projects on international law and new technologies. She is the author of the bibliographic chapter on “Consular and Diplomatic Affairs and Foreign State Immunity” in Contemporary Practice of Public International Law, as well as “Developing an Electronic Information Role for Scholarly Associations” in the International Journal of Legal Information (1999) and other articles.

Table of Contents

Law (and other) Portals
Law Scouting Sites
US Government
Inter-Governmental Organizations
New Books and Articles
Web Tools for the Internationalist
Current Awareness Delivered by Email


International law, possibly more than any other legal field, has benefited from the increased access and availability offered by the web. Its materials were once considered arcane, obscure or at least highly unfamiliar to most law librarians charged with tracking them down.

The change for the better in the last five years has been remarkable, and new materials, tools and technologies are springing up every day on the web. But how do you know what they are, when they appear, and where they can be found? How do you keep informed about issues and events on a daily or weekly basis?

Fortunately, there are more and more resources and services that will help you to keep up with the latest developments, both of new research tools, guides and engines, as well as of new legislation, treaties, decisions, reports and documents of all types.

Here is a brief rundown of useful current awareness resources geared particularly to international law and relations.

Law (and other) Portals

Portals try to be comprehensive gateways to internet resources, offering tailored search engines, electronic tools and services, and content organized by subject area. They often have database or search engine-driven “News” sections.

“Foreign & International Resources” has an “International Law News” section.
One of best and fastest search engines, this portal also has a Yahoo! World News section that on a recent visit included Middle East peace talks, the WTO, the EU, Putin and privatization, among other stories. Yahoo now has special portals for Asia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, France, the UK as well as Chinese and Spanish.
Hieros Gamos
“The comprehensive law and government portal” has online news for 60 practice areas, including “International Law News.”

Law Scouting Sites

Certain sites, through a variety of devices such as monitoring listserves or recruiting subject experts, help web users keep up with new developments in technology and subject areas.

LLRX.com, published since 1996, focuses on research and technology-related issues for legal professionals. News is published daily, and LLRXBuzz, a column on legal research resources, is published each Monday (also available by email). Happily, LLRX has an excellent International/Foreign Law section.
Cornell University’s BigEar: Current Legal Resources on the Net
BigEar listens to a variety of law-related mailing lists and newsgroups and constructs a convenient cumulative listing, thus offering “a (slightly distorted) view of what’s new on the Net for lawyers, and of what people are talking about.”
ASIL Guide to Electronic Resources for International Law (ERG)
This is a continuously updated guide to international law research using electronic media. Human rights, treaties, environmental and criminal law are just some of the subjects covered. The chapter on “Lists, Newsgroups and Networks” offers an initiation into email resources, and has an excellent section on how they can keep you up-to-date.
The Scout Report
“Let the Internet Scout Project show you the way to the best resources on the Internet–then you can choose what’s best for you. Librarians and educators do the filtering for you, reading hundreds of announcements each week looking for the online resources most valuable to the education community.” Take a look at “In the News.”
“What’s Online in International Law”
This column which has appeared 5-6 times a year since 1992 in the ASIL Newsletter, is archived (with live links) on the American Society of International Law website. Experts from around the country focus on new or particularly useful sites.


Newspapers World-Wide
Newspapers world-wide are listed at the cooperative”start4all.com” site which links to thousands of newspapers in hundreds of countries – from The Antarctic Connection to The Zimbabwe Mirror.
Washington Post
The Washington Post Web site offers the full text of today’s paper, and a search engine that covers the past two weeks. Articles in archives go back to 1977 and are available for a fee.
New York Times
The New York Times has a special international section each day.
The BBC World Service
The BBC World Service gives you the news in print and audio in 43 languages.

US Government

Keep up with legislative information provided through the Library of Congress and full text of the Congressional Record, links to the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate (including email addresses), a link to C-Span (the Cable Satellite Public Affairs Network) as well as to GLIN, the Global Legal Information Network.
US Department of State Press Briefings
US Department of State Press Briefings are retrievable covering 1993 to the present, via audio, text or email subscription. They’re not searchable, unfortunately.
US Department of State International Information Programs’ (formerly USIA) “Washington File”
Washington File presents a variety of resources arranged by topic or region, (these are searchable), with an option to view only materials that have appeared in the last 48 hours. Some non-English documents. Archives go back to 1990.
US Department of Commerce Bureau of Export Administration
US Department of Commerce Bureau of Export Administration has “News from BXA” that links to information on and texts of new US export regulations.

Inter-Governmental Organizations

United Nations
The UN NewsCentre has Press Releases and Briefings, news magazines and “In Focus” pieces tracking Kosovo, East Timor and current summits; also, the UN’s Dag Hammarskjold Library has a Documents Alert feature that allows you to review, and link to full text of the most recent reports (in pdf format).
International Court of Justice
International Court of Justice carries as-yet unpublished Pleadings and provides the latest Press Releases in its “What’s New” section.
World Bank DevNews
World Bank DevNews available daily by email or on their website presents current news, schedules and also “Tools for Journalists”.
WTO News
WTO News leads to the latest news from the World Trade Organization, archives, press releases and current schedules of meetings and consultations.
Northwestern University’s Library’s IGOs
Northwestern University’s Library puts together a lengthy list of IGOs with their Press Release and Publications links already conveniently provided.

New Books and Articles

Library of Congress
Find recent publications by searching the world’s largest public library. Set date limits to see only recent books while searching key words such as “international law”.
You can search the journals and books of over 130 university and non-profit presses on the American Association of University Presses website – and order anything in one convenient shopping cart. They also have a “New Releases” section, browseable by subject.
American Journal of International Law
The American Journal of International Law‘s tables of contents for the last several years are available and searchable on the ASIL website. Lengthy abstracts of major articles, short abstracts of “International Decisions” and lists of “Current Developments” are all here, as well as full-text selections such as, recently, multiple editorial comments (by international law luminaries Henkin, Wedgwood, Charney, Chinkin, Falk, Franck and Reisman) on NATO bombings in Kosovo.
Carl UnCover
Carl UnCover has indexed 8 million articles since 1988 from 17,000 multidisciplinary journals. Searches narrowed to the most recent 2 years or so will reveal what has been published recently on your subject. Uncover allows you to order articles faxed to you, and takes care of copyright payments in their fees.
A bibliographic database with over 2200 records that is maintained by the ASIL Library, allows you to search (by author, title, date, publication) everything published by the American Society of International Law in the last 10 years including articles, documents (from International Legal Materials), books, occasional papers, bulletins and so on. Type the current year into the “Date” field to see the most recent.

Web Tools for the Internationalist

While in 1995, about 80% of the web was in English, now other languages are catching up and have almost reached the 50% mark. Translation tools and services are available, as are up-to-date currency converters. Some other handy tools such as calendars, country information and citation guides are listed here too.

Babelfish run by AltaVista, allows you to translate a whole webpage (just give them the URL) or a small piece of text. The usual caveats about automated translation need not be repeated, but be aware that text in graphics or java will not be translated.
LanguageLine Services
It provides almost instant, round-the-clock, real human interpretation (over the phone) and document translation, for 140 languages.
Legal Language Services
Legal Language Services will do translation, transcription, interpretation, certification, and authentication among other services.
The ASIL Website’s Calendar
The ASIL website’s Calendar posts notices and contact information on upcoming conferences around the world of particular interest to academics, practitioners, students and information specialists in the field of international law are presented chronologically.
The latest currency exchange rates (within the last 24 hours)
You can call up a variety of charts (against other currencies) and graphs (rates over time) and even photographs of paper money.
Introduction to Basic Legal Citation
Peter Martin’s 1999-2000 version of Introduction to Basic Legal Citation has a section on “The Future: How Technology Is Changing Citation.” Everyone (the AALL, the ABA, the Blue Book, etc) realizes that there must be a “medium neutral” way of citing materials that appear on the web, but international standards will have to remain a work in progress for some time to come.
The (CIA) World Factbook
This is not totally up-to-date (1999), but is nonetheless invaluable for the country information it provides (economy, government, geography, history, maps, communications, military etc.). Those seeking current (relatively) information on regional and global organizations and even “groups” such as LDCs and “communist countries” will find it in appendices that provide lists of member countries, telephone numbers and addresses for everything from ACP Group to the WTO.

Current Awareness Delivered by Email

Many of the ‘what’s new’ sections on websites such as those mentioned above also have email subscriptions to their products available should you have room in your inbox. Some other email updates:

Now appearing weekly by free email subscription, ASIL’s International Law In Brief abstracts recent decisions, agreements and reports from national and international sources on all subjects of international law and links to original documents. ILIB is searchable using the website search engine, and archived on the ASIL website.
ASIL Insights
Insights are timely and balanced accounts, written by experts who are members of the American Society of International Law, of the international legal issues behind current events. Recent ones have explored issues and events such as the Massachusetts “Burma law” and the Lockerbie case. Insights are emailed to subscribers (free) 12-15 times a year, as events warrant. They are archived and searchable on the ASIL site.
The Economist
“Politics this Week” is a weekly email update that is free if you register (also free) for access to the Economist website. Full text access requires a subscription, although some articles are free.
The listserve of foreign, comparative and international law librarians and researchers of all types reveals (and provides) access to recent documents.
International Law-Related Lists
The University of Chicago’s Lyonette Louis-Jacques has put together an enormous compilation of international law lists (from Admiralty to War Crimes Watch).
World Trade Agenda
This ia a fortnightly in-depth briefing on up-coming trade issues based in Geneva. The full service is by paid subscription only, but summaries are free on their website on dispute resolution, WTO institutional issues, intellectual property and so on.
Posted in: Features, International Legal Research