Fragmentation or Coherence? Does International Dispute Settlement Achieve Comprehensive Justice?

Simon A. Benson


The debate about whether international law is fragmented or coherent is no arid discussion. If fragmentation is in the ascendancy, many commentators argue that something needs to be done. It is, of course, vital for the success of any legal system to achieve some level of predictability and certainty and to consistently deliver comprehensive justice. A legal system must, first and foremost, be a justice system, if there is any point to its existence. If it is not, then there may be another debate about whether it may be called a ‘legal’ system or a ‘justice’ system at all. I will review the debate between various leading commentators and analyse their proposals. My review of a number of different aspects and areas of international law shows that although fragmentation is apparent, the level of coherence in international law is far more surprising than fragmentation, which is inevitable, just as it is in the development of national law in, say, a federal polity. Just when international law seems to be fragmented somewhere, coherence is being achieved elsewhere. The result may be characterised as a kind of ‘equilibrium’ in which antagonistic and cohesive forces in international law keep one another in check, somehow balancing the other out. International law is capable of delivering comprehensive justice even if, at times, it may seem unlikely or elusive.

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International Journal of Law and Public Administration   ISSN 2576-2192 (Print)     ISSN 2576-2184 (Online)

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