ILDC at 10
In 2003 Andre Nollkaemper and Erika de Wet of the University of Amsterdam (UvA) submitted a proposal to OUP for a new online-only journal looking at the interactions between international and domestic law. Their idea was to provide an outlet for information and discussions of how domestic courts across the world apply (or not) international law. Our review process revealed to us that this was certainly a fertile area for research but that research published in such a journal would suffer from the same defect as any study of national practice in international law: the paucity of case law from a wide range of jurisdictions for researchers to base their work on. At the same time as we were considering this proposal we were also researching the possibility of producing an online collection of state practice in international law. Here we came up against different hurdles; principally disagreement over what constitutes state practice and the sheer scale of covering all types of practice, across all areas of law, across all states. We would have to compromise in one of these dimensions.
Putting together the UvA proposal and our own plans we came up with the solution: to limit the project to a set of online case reports. These reports would feature cases from domestic courts of as many countries as possible focusing on interesting applications and interpretations of international law. This would provide scholars with data in the form of case law and analysis on which to base further scholarship, and it would provide evidence of state practice that was unequivocally opinio juris. The concept of International Law in Domestic Courts (ILDC) was born. Andre Nollkaemper and Erika de Wet became the first editors-in-chief, and Edda Kristjansdottir the first managing editor.
The first editorial steps were to recruit a geographically diverse editorial board, an even more geographically diverse pool of national reporters and to agree on inclusion policies. Unlike traditional law reports, in addition to purely factual reports of facts and judicial holdings, we would include subjective analyses from our reporters, offering local knowledge and insight for the benefit of the (majority of) readers who do not specialise in that jurisdiction. Commissioning and building the online platform provided a further set of challenges but we eventually launched on 19 September 2006 with 113 case reports.
The first big shock after going live was that it was so unlike publishing a major book. Instead of taking a rest and enjoying the satisfaction of completing a project we were immediately thrown into the cycle of producing the first set of weekly updates, and then the next. We survived those early difficulties and ten years later OUP has launched several further online products which are all hosted on the Oxford Public International Law platform. The online international law programme employs several people at OUP and works with over 1,000 scholarly collaborators beyond OUP. None of this would have happened without the vision and energy of the founding editors, editorial board, managing editor, and dedicated reporters involved with getting ILDC off the ground. We celebrate its 10th anniversary proud to have launched an innovative and widely used and cited service for the community of international law scholars and practitioners and we are sincerely grateful to all those who have worked and continue to work on the project.
Ten years later (August Reinisch has by now replaced Erika de Wet as co-editor in chief), ILDC contains a vast range of domestic court decisions dealing with such diverse topics like non-justiciability, the political questions- and act of state-doctrines, comity; the problem of the interpretation of international law by domestic courts and their review powers; different approaches to core international law issues such as international responsibility, statehood, non-state actors, jurisdiction, immunities; and judicial views on human rights and humanitarian law, on environmental issues as well as refugee law, on the use of force and non-intervention. ILDC has become a flourishing undertaking thanks to a dedicated group of enthusiastic international lawyers. It has already considerably facilitated research into the actual judicial practice of states and with each additional headnote included in ILDC this database will become more of an indispensable tool for practitioners and scholars alike.
André Nollkaemper and August Reinisch (editors-in-chief)
Erika de Wet (former editor-in-chief)
John Louth (OUP)
Learn more about LAW10: 10 Years of Online Law Publishing from Oxford