Book Review: Mirages of International Justice

Mirages of International Justice: The Elusive Pursuit of a Transnational Legal Order Mathew Parish, Edward Elgar Publishing  Limited, UK 2011. 259pp. ISBN 978 1 84980 4080 (ceased)

This book is a powerful insight on the International justice and the roles played by the States and International organizations for the attainment of justice. The book explores common problems across International courts and international organization. It tests the working of the court from the angle of several theories of international relations; such realism, liberalism, American exceptionalism and constructivism, which are established to attain certain values and ideology often get trapped between the political interests of the powerful states. Author argues that international law is an industry and international organizations are industrialists where IOs are driven not for the demand of justice but for the purpose of its own propagation.

In the name of balance of power, States pursue their own self-preservation and self-aggrandizement. States acquire territory and wealth from trade, manufacture and plunder, they colonize and subjugate in their interest whenever necessary. It is the necessity of ‘self-interest’ which from time to motivates States to form alliance. States enter into international treatise or conventions when they share a common interest.

The author discusses International law in present context. Even after power game played by powerful nations, international law necessarily involves the creation of international institutions, because international law cannot survive without them. The growth of international law is not just a matter of an ever increasing number of treaties; there has also been a considerable growth in customary international law, writings of the scholars, jurisprudence of international courts and tribunals and writings of international organisations etc.

The author describes importance international courts and tribunals i.e. The Permanent Court of Arbitration, The Permanent Court of International Justice and International Court of Justice. To conclude, the values for states in signing the greater bulk of contemporary treaties lie principally not in their observance, but in their signature. Commercial and geopolitical interests may preclude overt opposition to the acts of a foreign sovereign. International Human Rights treaties, combined with ineffective monitoring activities by the UN, thus serve a valuable purpose in satisfying the most domestic human rights constituency. By contrast, the incentives for an undemocratic human rights abuser to sing an international treaty are somewhat different. Such nations are less concerned with appeasing domestic constituency by signing up a treaty; rather they are concerned with appeasing international public opinion. The book interestingly depicts how States, in international law, endure irrelevance, Court’s judgments are ignored and the practice of the court is unusually slow. Political bias could easily be felt by the practice of thee international courts and tribunals. The failure of International Court implies that the international law is not as robust as it claims. The author in this book beautifully depicts international courts as species of international organisations and they share the same challenges of bureaucracy and unaccountability as have plagues the United Nations.

This book will be of particular interest to scholars and practitioners interested in critique of international organisations and international court. As an ex-member in several international organisations, Mathew Parish’s book is telling the tale of an insider. His style of writing is comparative and has successfully described his experience of international law order and justice delivery system in international law.

Mohd Imran
Mohd Imran

Mr. Imran is a Lecturer at Faculty of Shariah and Law, Villa College Maldives. He also teaches Public International Law, International Law and Institutions and International Contracts in LLB and LLM courses offered by the University of West of England, Bristol at Villa College. The author can be contacted at


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