In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section International Law in Turkish

  • Introduction
  • Textbooks
  • Theory, History, and Critique of International Law
  • Sources of International Law
  • Self-Determination and Statehood in International Law
  • Succession and Responsibility of States
  • International Organizations and Nongovernmental Organizations
  • Use of Force in International Law
  • Cases Involving the Use of Force and International Law
  • International Courts and Arbitral Tribunals
  • International Humanitarian Law and Humanitarian Intervention
  • International Law of the Sea and the Law of International Watercourses
  • Turkey’s Maritime Disputes and International Law
  • Turkish Foreign Policy and International Law
  • Contemporary Issues and Problems of International Law

International Law International Law in Turkish
Berdal Aral
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 August 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 August 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199796953-0228


It is difficult to speak of a distinctly “Turkish” approach to international law. First, by and large, Turkish academics do not pretend to represent a systematic worldview that challenges the established norms and practices of international law. Second, they mostly have no claims about presenting views, ideas, and concepts that enrich existing international law. Finally, there is no evidence to suggest that Turkish scholars of international law share the official view of Turkey, roughly over the last two decades, as a “central state” and a “rising power.” Another peculiarity of the international legal discipline in Turkey is its lack of interest in Turkey’s historical past, in particular the Ottoman Empire. This is possibly one of the reasons behind the overall aridity of the international legal literature in Turkey. Even today, most of the Turkish jurists appear Eurocentric/Western-centric in the way they conceive international law. Accordingly, they are likely to show scant interest in legal disputes, developments, or ideas originating in Asia, Africa, and Latin America unless they are taken up by Western scholars. This one-way dependence on the Western literature may also partly account for the positivist bias prevailing in Turkey. The rarity of interdisciplinary analysis of international legal issues is another distinguishing feature of the literature in Turkish. Nonetheless, increasing publications by the new generations of jurists in Turkey have undoubtedly broadened the thematic scope of international legal analysis. Currently, in addition to the classical topics of international law, Turkish monographic studies, which mostly originate in doctoral theses, and academic articles delve into issues such as the right of self-determination, human rights and humanitarian law, and, less frequently, the history of international law, jus cogens norms in international law, globalization and international law, Third World approaches to international law, and some problematical aspects of the UN system from the perspective of international law. This bibliographical study does not include studies that fall under the umbrella of the European Union law or human rights, simply because these branches of international law have become separate disciplines or subdisciplines on their own in Turkey. Besides, Turkish academic publications in these two areas are so numerous that it doesn’t seem sensible to list them as a subheading of international legal analysis in this bibliographical study. Granting that Turkish scholars of international law have shown scant interest in the area of “Islam and international law,” this topic is not incorporated in this entry either. Currently, in Turkey, there is no academic journal specializing solely in public international law. However, Milletlerarası Hukuk ve Milletlerarası Özel Hukuk Bülteni (Public and Private International Law Bulletin), published since 1981 by the Law Faculty of Istanbul University, incorporates articles, book reviews, and case law on both branches of international law.


Currently, there is an abundance of textbooks of international law in Turkish. Most of them are quite similar to one another. It seems that writing textbooks is seen by many Turkish jurists as the insignia of seasoned scholarship. The coverage of textbooks usually follows a very similar line: first, main features, sources, and subjects/persons of international law; second, state, territory, state responsibility, succession of states, and conduct of interstate relations, which includes diplomatic privileges and immunities; third, sea, air, and outer space law; finally, peaceful methods of dispute resolution, prohibition of the use of force, and the UN system about the maintenance of international peace and security. The emphasis in textbooks of international law in Turkish is placed exceedingly on the state and its sovereign will. Another common feature of Turkish textbooks of international law is their extensive analysis of Turkey’s posture, perceptions, and behavior vis-à-vis a variety of international law topics. These textbooks almost always endorse Turkey’s official line. The resource materials used in Turkish textbooks are largely drawn from Western sources, which suggests that non-Western scholarship or views and practices of international law are mostly ignored. Presently, textbooks written by a younger generation of legal scholars have become ever more reader-friendly, which inevitably diminish their analytical rigor. The books Meray 1968–1975 and Pazarcı 2013 are possibly the most scholarly among textbooks in Turkish due to the depth of their legal analysis, comprehensiveness of the topics they investigate, the well-grounded methodology they use, and the wealth of resource materials they deploy. Meray 1968–1975 ought to be highlighted also for its extensive treatment of the history of international law. Toluner 1989 stands out with its authoritative elaboration of case law and meticulous investigation into the regulation of interstate relations as well as international maritime law and disputes. Aksar 2015 manages to maintain a fine balance between sound legal scholarship and a lucid presentation of international legal topics, including new issues. Aybay and Oral 2016 is exceptionally non-state-centric and thus exhibits an awareness of “international society” as a main frame of reference throughout the book. Kaya and Acer 2019 is discernible with its breadth of issues covered, incorporation of recent topics, and readability. Sur 2010 is a fluent book that devotes a separate chapter to a description of domestic and external organs of state conducting international relations. Doğan 2013 provides an extensive discussion of state responsibility in the case of genocide and is reflective of the German approaches to international law. Ünal 2005 appears to be a combination of international law and human rights law and uses sources in English, Turkish, French, and German.

  • Aksar, Yusuf, Teoride ve Uygulamada Uluslararası Hukuk. 2 vols. Ankara: Seçkin Yayıncılık, 2015.

    In addition to “classical” topics of international law, this textbook of international law draws extensively on international criminal and human rights law. It manifests an awareness of global changes that have engendered global problems. At the end of each chapter, there are questions for debate. Strongly bent on court rulings and rigorous in its investigation, the book, not unusually, is Eurocentric in its approach to international law.

  • Aybay, Rona, and Elif Oral. Kamusal Uluslararası Hukuk. Istanbul: Bilgi Üniversitesi, 2016.

    This textbook on “public” international law is an inquiry into the rights and obligations of members of “international society.” This book is limited substantively, as it covers comparative analysis of international law and municipal law; sources of international law; and actors of international law. Untypical of Turkish textbooks of international law, it extensively examines issues like human rights, right of self-determination, the norm of jus cogens, and international criminal law.

  • Doğan, İlyas. Devletler Hukuku. Ankara: Astana Yayınları, 2013.

    This textbook, which relies mostly on German materials, conceives of international law as mainly “interstate” law, as the title suggests. While covering mostly classical issues of international law, it also delves into (relatively) “new” issues such as human rights, humanitarian intervention, self-determination, and the International Criminal Court (2002). A major peculiarity of the book is its long deliberation about the legal implications of the exile of Ottoman Armenians in 1915.

  • Kaya, İbrahim, and Yücel Acer. Uluslararası Hukuk Temel Ders Kitabı-İngilizce Özetli. Ankara: Seçkin Yayıncılık, 2019.

    This student-friendly textbook of international law brings together roughly all the major topics of international law. Hence, alongside classical issues, the book gives due weight to “new” topics such as human rights, international economic law, and environmental law. It contains an English summary at the end of each chapter. This book is not sufficiently critical of established orthodoxies in international law, however.

  • Meray, Seha. Devletler Hukukuna Giriş. 2 vols. Ankara: Ankara Üniversitesi Basımevi, 1968–1975.

    This huge two-volume book by an outstanding scholar was for long the most authoritative textbook of international law in Turkish after the Second World War. It masterfully outlines and expounds the history of international law without losing sight of the Islamic conceptions and practices, which is a rare occurrence in Turkey. The book features a comprehensive treatment of international law, whereby classical issues are analyzed alongside more novel topics.

  • Pazarcı, Hüseyin. Uluslararası Hukuk. Ankara: Turhan Kitabevi, 2013.

    This lengthy textbook by a prominent scholar has been hugely influential in Turkey, and its methodology, substance, and doctrinal perspective have been followed by numerous other books. This scholarly and well-focused study encompasses a combination of “old” and “new” topics of international law. Although it relies mainly on positivist analysis, the book nonetheless informs the reader about some alternative views and approaches.

  • Sur, Melda. Uluslararası Hukukun Esasları. Istanbul: Beta, 2010.

    This textbook examines only a fraction of the topics of international law. It looks into the features, sources, and actors of international law, devotes a chapter to the United Nations, and takes cognizance of human rights, humanitarian intervention, and self-determination. Relying on a positivist view of international law, it dismisses soft law. This book is relatively easy to follow. It is a descriptive book that tends to avoid doctrinal and theoretical discussions.

  • Toluner, Sevin. Milletlerarası Hukuk Dersleri-Devletin Yetkisi. Istanbul: Beta, 1989.

    This textbook, by one of the authoritative jurists in Turkey, looks at the issues under consideration through the glance of state sovereignty and jurisdiction. Two-thirds of this book consists of the rules of sovereignty in the sea, including an extensive coverage of Turkish laws and approaches. It is marked by a competent use of case law, while expressing scant interest in “contemporary” issues of international law due to hardline positivism.

  • Ünal, Şeref. Uluslararası Hukuk. Ankara: Yetkin Yayınları, 2005.

    This book is intended for undergraduate students in order to outline the main contours of international law. In addition to the classical issues of international law, it also looks at relatively “novel” issues such as international organizations, including the African Union and the Arab League, human rights and the human rights protection systems, inter alia, in the Americas and Africa, humanitarian law, international criminal law, and international environmental law.

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