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Seeking resolution of disputes involving international law, in particular those related to cross-border disputes and human rights.

If you or a loved one need legal advice involving international law, please contact us.

Contact an International Lawyer at

International Law

The world in which we live is more interconnected on a daily basis. In particular, the actions of countries and companies that have a global reach can affect individuals and their rights on a collective level all over the world.

Knowles Law Firm practices in the area of international law with a primary emphasis on international human rights law. International law includes both the public and private sectors. Public international law involves the law between nations, and private international law involves agreements in the private sector, including those to deal with cross-border disputes.

International law encompasses treaties and conventions, customary international law (laws that are not written, but a general practice accepted as law), and jus cogens (also known as compelling law, which countries accept as non-derogable rights – rights that can not be avoided or violated).

An example of jus cogens violation typically involves war crimes. Examples of customary international law violations involve conduct by nations that permit or engage in slavery, genocide, torture, war of aggression, or crimes against humanity.

“Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must — at that moment — become the center of the universe.”

 Elie Wiesel

International Law and

Human Rights

Human rights and collective peoples’ rights on the international stage are found domestically, in treaties, or customary international law. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, following the close of World War II is a form of customary international law, which establishes norms that set forth universal individual concepts and rights.

The UDHR stands for the concepts of dignity, liberty, and equality. The rights in the UDHR include the right to life, freedom of thought and opinion, religion and consciousness, peaceful association, and the prohibition of slavery and torture.

In addition to the UDHR, the adoption of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights in 1966 set forth enhanced specific rights and protections afforded to individuals. These three human rights instruments form what is commonly referred to as the International Bill of Human Rights.

Other core human rights instruments include:

  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1969)
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1981)
  • Convention Against Torture (1987)
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child (1990)
  • International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (2003)
  • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2008)
  • International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (2010)

How is International
Law enforced?

International law is enforced either on the domestic level, through international bodies, such as the United Nations, or international courts, such as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC). A country is only subject to the jurisdiction of an international court if it is a signatory to a treaty conveying jurisdiction. For example, signatory countries to the Treaty of Rome consent to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.

The United States signed the Treaty of Rome on December 31, 2000, but it has not ratified the treaty. Under the treaty, a country is not bound if it has signed but not ratified the treaty because it “made its intention clear not to become a party to the treaty.” The United States has informed the United Nations Secretary General that it no longer intends to become a party to the treaty and therefore is not bound by the treaty and cannot be tried by the International Criminal Court. While the ICJ entertains only legal disputes between countries and does not have jurisdiction over individuals, non-governmental organizations, companies, or other private entities; the ICC can exercise jurisdiction over individuals.

Regional Human Rights Systems


Established in 2001, the African Union comprises 54 member states and is a supranational union. The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights is the region’s principal human rights instrument. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) is a quasi-judicial body of the African Union, which is delegated to promoting and protecting human rights and collective rights throughout the continent of Africa, as well as interpreting the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and considering individual complaints of violations of the Charter.


The Organization of American States (OAS) comprises 35 member states and is a supranational body based in Washington, DC. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is an autonomous organ of the OAS, also based in Washington, D.C. Along with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights based in San José, Costa Rica, the organization is a permanent body that meets in regular and special sessions several times a year to examine allegations of human rights violations in the continents of North America and South America. Its human rights duties stem from three documents, which include the OAS Charter American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man American Convention on Human Rights The Inter-American Court of Human Rights was established in 1979 to enforce and interpret the provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights.
The court can entertain cases of human rights violations by way of petition or referral.


In 1949, the Council of Europe was established. The Council is based in Strasbourg, France, and is comprised of all member states of the European Union, which also has its own human rights instrument known as the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The Council of Europe oversees the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights. The European Convention on Human Rights has since 1950 defined and guaranteed human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe. All 46 member states of the Council of Europe have signed this Convention, and are therefore under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The European Court of Human Rights is the only international court with jurisdiction to deal with cases brought by individuals rather than states.

The Council of Europe has also adopted the following:

  • Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (2005)

  • Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (2007)

  • Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (2011)

Knowles Law Firm, PC and International Law

Attorney Brian M. Knowles is an admitted Solicitor to the Senior Courts of England and Wales and an admitted Solicitor in the Republic of Ireland. Also, Mr. Knowles is admitted to practice law in the State of South Carolina and Washington, D.C. He can assist in providing legal advice on international law issues and concerns, in particular those related to cross-border disputes and human rights.

If you or a loved one need legal advice involving international law, please contact us.

Contact an International Lawyer at

Contact us for inquiries

Knowles Law Firm, PC will advocate for your rights.

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Charleston, SC 29407


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