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The question “What is law?”has troubled people for many years. An entire field of study known as Jurisprudence is devoted to answering this question. Many definitions of law exist, but for our purposes, law can be defined as that set of rules or regulations by which a government regulates the conduct of people within a society. Even with this explanation, many other questions arise. Where do laws come from? Do we need laws? Are all laws written? Can laws change? If so, how? Are all laws fair? What is the difference between laws and morals?

To understand the law, we must consider the relationship of law to morals. Our legal system is influenced by traditional ideas of right and wrong. Thus, most people would condemn murder, regardless of what the law said. However, everything that is considered immoral is not necessarily illegal. For example, lying to a friend may be immoral but is rarely illegal.

One thing is certain: every society that has ever existed has recognized the need for law. These laws may have been unwritten, but; even primitive people had rules to regulate the conduct of the group. Without laws, there would be confusion, fear, and disorder. This does not mean that all laws are fair or even good, but imagine how people might take advantage of one another without some set of rules.

Law is the whole set of rules that are supported by the power of government and that control the behaviour of members of a society. The law itself provides the basic structure within which commerce and industry operate. It safeguards the rights of individuals, regulates their dealings with others and enforces the duties of government.

There are two main kinds of the law – public and private (civil). Private law concerns disputes among citizens within a country, and publiclaw concerns disputes between citizens and the state, or between one state and another.

The system of law consists of different categories of law.

There are laws which enable citizens to take legal action against the state. These actions are part of constitutional law. A constitution is the political and ideological structure within which a system of laws operates. Most countries have a formal written Constitution describing how laws are to be made and enforced.

Many countries face similar social, economic and political problems. Nations have always made political and economic treaties with each other. International law is created to regulate relations between governments and also between private citizens of one country and those of another.

Criminal law deals with wrongful acts harmful to the community and punishable by the state.

Civil law deals with individual rights, duties and obligations towards one another.

As well as defining the powers of government, most constitutions describe the fundamental rights of citizens. These usually include general declarations about freedom and equality, but, also some specific provisions. The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) was first adopted in 1950 and has now been signed by every country of Western Europe. Individual citizens of these countries have the right to bring a complaint before the European Commission if they think their government has broken the Convention. But despite the development of legally binding national and international conventions, millions of people in the world still do not enjoy human rights.


1. What is law?

2. What categories of law can you name?

3. What is the principle source of constitutional law?

4. What is the central institution of private (civil) law?

5. What does criminal law define?

6. What does international law regulate?

7. What is civil law connected with?

8. When was ECHR adopted?

9. What does ECHR deal with?


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