There is a controversy amongst jurists as to whether it is law or not. The analytical school of jurists led by John Austin and his followers holds that international law is not law because :
1. International Law is not the command of a Determinate Human Superior to an Inferior:
Law is command of a superior (sovereign) to inferior. There is no such superior to command international law.
2. International Law does not enjoy the sanction of any coercive authority:
Law is obeyed because of fear of punishment. State law is backed by its coercive authority. The international law on the other hand has no such sanctions.
The states obey it at will and may break it at will. No physical punishment follows such breach. That is why Holland called international law as ‘vanishing point of jurisprudence.’
3. There are no competent courts to interpret International Law:
The state law is interpreted by courts and enforced accordingly. There is no such machinery in international field.
There are numerous interpretations, it is alleged, of international law. There is no unanimity as to what international law is on any particular point or issue.
4. International Law comes in conflict with the sovereignty of State:
International law is negation of the sovereignty of the State. Every state is internally sovereign and its authority over its subjects is absolute and unlimited. A sovereign state does not recognize any superior in international relations.
Austin and his followers point out that recognition of international law as law would involve a limitation on the external sovereignty of the state and this would mean that the states arc not sovereign.
This brings about a crisis in the theory of the state because sovereignty of the state is recognized to be an essential element of the state without which a state ceases to be a state.
There is yet another modern school of thought known as the historical school of jurists who contend that international law is law in the real sense of the word. International law is law in the same sense in which municipal law is law. The former has the same sources and force behind it as is the case with the latter. They defend the legal validity of international law on the following grounds: