International legal resources

The resources described in this article are mainly world-wide collections prepared by governmental, academic and other non-profit bodies. This type of resource is a good place to start if you are looking for something from a less well known country.

World Legal Information Institute (WorldLII) is the umbrella organisation for the worldwide “family” of Legal Information Institutes with the aim of providing “Free, independent and non-profit access to worldwide law”. Over 1252 databases from 123 jurisdictions are included. There is a single search facility across all these and in addition, a searchable collection of its own databases not found on the individual LIIs. A special feature of the site is the The WorldLII Catalog which provides links to law-related web sites in every country in the world.

Other LII’s, for direct access, include these:

AustLII (the Australasian Legal Information Institute)

CanLII (the Canadian Legal Information Institute)

CommonLII (Commonwealth Legal Information Inst)

PacLII (the Pacific Islands Legal Information Institute)

HKLII (the Hong Kong Legal Information Institute)

SafLII (Southern African Legal Information Institute)

On WorldLII there is a full list of the 14 Legal Information Institutes, leading to lists of resources held by the respective LIIs and a full list of countries, leading to the respective resources available for that country across any of the LIIs.

The Library of Congress serves as the research arm of Congress. This is the world’s largest law library, with a collection of over three million volumes covering virtually every jurisdiction in the world. They provide a summary of the constitutions, legal systems and legislation of all(?) countries of the world.

The New York University School of Law provides a section for Foreign Collections.

CIA World Fact Book is not strictly a legal resource, but provides information on the history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 267 world entities. There are maps of the major world regions, as well as Flags of the World, a Physical Map of the World and a Political Map of the World.

The United Nations provides an International Law collection of sources, treaties, courts, tribunals and links, mainly related to the UN and its constituent bodies. The mandate for the activities in this field emanates from the Charter of the United Nations which, in its Preamble, sets the goal “to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained”.

The World Resources section of infolaw Lawfinder brings together several of the resources above and provides comprehensive links for 207 jurisdictions in a form which is very easy to use and digest.

The International Court of Justice at the Hague is the principal judicial body of the United Nations. The site provides full text judgments since 1996. The ICJ, also known as the World Court, was founded in 1946 to replace the Permanent Court of International Justice.

Electronic Information System for International Law (EISIL) comes from the American Society of International Law. It highlights quality primary materials, authoritative web sites and helpful research guides to international law. EISIL has been designed as an open database of authenticated primary and other materials across the breadth of international law, which until now have been scattered in libraries, archives and specialized web sites. As well as a direct link to the resources described, there is a “More Information” button on each record, providing legal citations, entry into force and signature dates, amendments and brief descriptions.

International Rule of Law Directory is an initiative from the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute. It is the first centralised, fully searchable, online database of entities engaged in rule of law work throughout the world. It was created in 2009, in partnership with the United States Institute of Peace.

FLAG (Foreign Law Guide) from the University of London’s Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, is a free database covering international legal resources held by UK law libraries in Universities and research institutes including the British Library, the Advocates Library and the National Library of Wales. There are 10,000 records relating to the resources held – many often previously not widely known about. Note that this is a guide to where the printed – often historic – collections are held, not a guide to internet resources (many of these historic resources will never be available on the internet).

FLARE (Foreign Law Research) is a collaboration between the major libraries collecting law in the United Kingdom and works to improve the coverage and accessibility of foreign legal materials at the national level. The work is currently focused on improving national coverage of the law of the transition states of Central and Eastern Europe and building a distributed national collection of official gazettes.

Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is the world organization of parliaments of sovereign States. It was established in 1889 and is based in Geneva. The Union is the focal point for world-wide parliamentary dialogue and works for the firm establishment of representative democracy. There are currently 164 Members and 10 Associate Members of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. The countries are listed with direct links to the Parliament site of each country and there is information on the structure and working methods of 266 parliamentary chambers in all of the 189 countries where a national legislature exists.

The Internet Legal Resource Guide is based at the University of Texas. It is a categorized index of more than 4000 select web sites in 238 nations, islands, and territories, as well as thousands of locally stored web pages, legal forms, and downloadable files.

Delia Venables is joint editor of the Newsletter.

Email Twitter @deliavenables.