The Interrelationship Between United Nations Law and the Law of Other International Organizations

The question regarding the interrelationship between UN law and the law of other international organizations acquired actual significance in the Netherlands in the spring of 1983. At that time, the Dutch Government published a Note stating that, due to the strictures of international law embodied in the law of the European Economic Community (EEC) and European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the Benelux Economic Union, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), it could not impose unilateral sanctions against South Africa. In response to this Note, a group of public international law professors in the Netherlands issued a Commentary that reached the opposite conclusion. It is not the purpose of this Article to detail the background of these events nor to discuss the documents as such. Rather, this Article will focus on the relationship between the law of the UN and the law of the EEC, the Benelux Economic Union and GATT. Part I of the Article will introduce the subject by analyzing article 103 of the UN Charter, which states that in case of a conflict the obligations of the Charter shall prevail over the obligations undertaken in any other international agreement. Part II will outline the general relationship between the UN and other international organizations. Finally, Part III will focus on the specific issues raised by the Dutch Government’s Note and the response of the law professors, evaluating the legal value and conclusions of each.