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Authoritarian International Law?

  • Tom Ginsburg (a1)


International law, though formally neutral among regime types, has mainly been a product of liberal democracies since World War II. In light of recent challenges to the liberal international order, this Article asks, what would international law look like in an increasingly authoritarian world? As compared with democratic countries, authoritarians emphasize looser cooperation, negotiated settlements, and rules that reinforce regime survival. This raises the possibility of authoritarian international law, designed to extend authoritarian rule across time and space.

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1 David Runciman, How Democracy Ends (2018); Steven Levitsky & Daniel Ziblatt, How Democracies Die (2018); Michael J. Abramowitz, Freedom in the World 2018: Democracy in Crisis, Freedom House (2018). This followed the 2017 Freedom House report which was subtitled Democracy Beleaguered.

2 Stephen Hopgood, The Endtimes of Human Rights (2013); Eric Posner, The Twilight of Human Rights Law (2014); Costas Douzinas, The End of Human Rights (2000).

3 Ginsburg, Tom & Huq, Aziz Z., Democracy's Near Misses, 29 J. Democ. 16 (2018).

4 Roberto Stefan Foa & Yascha Mounck, When Democracy Is No Longer the Only Path to Prosperity, Wall St. J., March 1, 2019, at C4. This statistic likely excludes Japan, Korea, and Taiwan from the ranks of “Western” democracies and is conducted on a Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) basis.

5 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, UNCTAD Stat, at

6 Anu Bradford, The Brussels Effect: How the European Union Rules the World (2020).

7 Thomas Carothers & Oren Samet-Marram, The New Global Marketplace of Political Changes, Carnegie Endowment Int'l Peace (Apr. 2015).

8 Elkins, Zachary, Ginsburg, Tom & Melton, James, The Content of Authoritarian Constitutions, in Constitutions in Authoritarian Regimes 141 (Tom Ginsburg & Alberto Simpser eds., 2014).

9 Jennifer Gandhi, Political Institutions Under Dictatorship (2008).

10 Tamir Moustafa, The Struggle for Constitutional Power: Law, Politics, and Economic Development in Egypt (2007).

11 Landau, David, Dixon, Rosalind & Roznai, Yaniv, From an Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendment to an Unconstitutional Constitution? Lessons from Honduras, 8 Glob. Constitutionalism 40, 45 (2019). Tribunal Constitucional Plurinacional, Sentencia Constitutional Plurinacional No. 0084/2017, Nov. 28, 2017, at 5 (Bol.); Supreme Court of Justice, Constitutional Chamber, Decision of Apr. 22, 2015, cited in Landau, Dixon & Roznai at n. 47, available at

12 Constitutions in Authoritarian Regimes (Tom Ginsburg & Alberto Simpser eds., 2014).

13 Woo, Ae Sil & Conrad, Courtenay R., The Differential Effects of “Democratic” Institutions on Dissent in Dictatorships, 81 J. Pol. 456 (2019); Gandhi, supra note 9; Milan Svolik, The Politics of Authoritarian Rule (2014).

14 See Zhang, Taisu & Ginsburg, Tom, China's Turn Toward Law, 59 Va J. Int'l L 307 (2019).

15 Anthony Anghie, Imperialism, Sovereignty, and the Making of International Law (2005).

16 Butler, William E., “Socialist International Law” or “Socialist Principles of International Relations”?, 65 AJIL 796 (1971).

17 See, e.g., Anthea Roberts, Is International Law International? (2017).

18 Slaughter, Anne Marie, International Law in a World of Liberal States, 6 Eur. J. Int'l L. 503 (1995); see also Karen Alter, The New Terrain of International Law: Courts, Politics, Rights (2014) (on adjudication).

19 Dryzek, John S., Can There Be a Human Right to an Essentially Contested Concept: The Case of Democracy, 78 J. Pol. 357, 358–59 (2016); Gallie, W. B., Essentially Contested Concepts, 56 Proc. Aristotelian Soc. 167 (1956).

20 Tom Ginsburg & Aziz Z. Huq, How to Save a Constitutional Democracy 9 (2018); see also David Collier & Steven Levitsky, Democracy with Adjectives: Conceptual Innovation in Comparative Research, 49 World Pol. 430 (1997). For some purposes in this Article, I will also examine numeric indicators of democracy that draw on other conceptualizations. However, little turns on the precise definition for the rough statistical analyses I provide, since there is a good deal of agreement across indicators about which countries are democratic and which are not.

21 Martin Elff & Sebastian Ziaja, Methods Factors in Democracy Indicators, 6 Pol. & Gov. 92 (2018); Jan Teorell, Michael Coppedge, Svend-Erik Skaaning & Staffan I. Lindberg, Measuring Electoral Democracy with V-Dem Data: Introducing a New Polyarchy Index (Varieties of Democracy Working Paper Series, 2016(25)).

22 China Disappointed Over WTO Appellate Body Impasse, Calling for Justice in International Community, Xinhuanet (Dec. 11. 2019), at

23 Mathias Forteau, Regional International Law, in Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law (2006).

24 Anne Marie Slaughter & William W. Burke-White, The Future of International Law Is Domestic (Or, the European Way of Law), 47 Harv. Int'l L.J. 327 (2006).

25 This is consistent with Andrew Moravcsik, Liberal Theories of International Law, in Interdisciplinary Perspectives on International Law and International Relations: The State of the Art 83 (Jeffrey L. Dunoff & Mark A. Pollack eds., 2012).

26 UN Charter, Art. 2(7).

27 Jack Goldsmith & Eric Posner, The Limits of International Law, AEI Book Summary 2 (April 2005); see generally Jack Goldsmith & Eric Posner, The Limits of International Law (2005)

28 Thomas M. Franck, The Emerging Right to Democratic Governance, 86 AJIL 46 (1992); see also Fernando R. Tesón, Two Mistakes About Democracy, 92 ASIL Proc. 126 (1998); Fernando R. Tesón, The Kantian Theory of International Law, 92 Colum. L. Rev. 53 (1992).

29 James Crawford, Democracy and International Law, 64 Brit. Y.B. Int'l L. 113 (1994); Democratic Governance and International Law (Gregory H. Fox & Brad Roth eds., 2000); Susan Marks, What Has Become of the Emerging Right to Democratic Governance?, 22 Eur. J. Int'l L. 507 (2011); J.H.H. Weiler, The Geology of International Law—Governance, Democracy and Legitimacy, 64 ZaöRV [Heidelberg J. Int'l L.) 547 (2004).

30 Franck, supra note 28, at 91.

31 Fox & Roth, supra note 29; Gregory H. Fox & Brad Roth, The Dual Lives of “The Emerging Right to Democratic Governance, 112 AJIL Unbound 67 (2018); Marks, supra note 29; Democracy and International Law (Richard Burchill ed., 2006); Same Varayudej, A Right to Democracy in International Law: Its Implications for Asia, 12 Ann. Surv. Int'l Comp. L (2006), available at

32 Brad Roth, Sovereign Equality and Moral Disagreement: Premises of a Pluralist International Legal Order (2011).

33 Dryzek, supra note 19, at 358.

34 John J. Mearsheimer, The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities (2018).

35 Alec Stone Sweet & Clare Ryan, A Cosmopolitan Legal Order (2018); Matthias Kumm, An Integrative Theory of Global Public Law: Cosmopolitan, Pluralist, Public Reason Oriented (manuscript on file with author); International Judicial Lawmaking (Armin von Bogdandy & Ingo Venzke eds., 2012); Transformative Constitutionalism in Latin America: Emergence of a New Ius Commune (Armin von Bogdandy, Eduardo Ferrer Mac-Gregor, Mariela Morales Antoniazzi, Flávia Piovesan & Ximena Soley eds., 2017).

36 Ian Hurd, How to Do Things with International Law (2017).

37 These facts are summarized briefly below.

38 Shirley V. Scott, The Decline of International Law as a Normative Ideal., 49 Victoria Univ. Wellington L. Rev. 627 (2018).

39 See, e.g., African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (2007); Inter-American Democratic Charter (2001). See Ben Kioko, The African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance as a Justiciable Instrument, 63 S1 J. African L. 39 (2019).

40 Toke Aidt & Facundo Albornoz, Political Regimes and Foreign Intervention. 94 J. Dev't Econ. 192 (2011).

41 Bruce Bueno de Mesquita & Alastair Smith, The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics (2012).

42 In emphasizing information, I am drawing on a literature in international relations. Xinyuan Dai, Why Comply? The Domestic Constituency Mechanism, 59 Int'l Org. 363 (2005).

43 Cuba and North Korea might be the last remaining examples here. The Bolivarian states of Latin America did adopt a People's Trade Agreement dedicated to fair and balanced trade in the service of the “higher interests of development of the peoples.” See SELA, The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America – Peoples’ Trade Agreement (ALBA-TCP) (2015), SP/CL/XLI.O/Di No. 11-15, available at

44 Michael Albertus & Victor Menaldo, Authoritarianism and the Elite Origins of Democracy (2018).

45 Adam Przeworski, Crises of Democracy 5 (2019).

46 Stephen Holmes, Passions and Constraint: On the Theory of Liberal Democracy 134–77 (1995).

47 Milan Svolik, The Politics of Authoritarian Rule (2012); Barbara Geddes, Stages of Development in Authoritarian Regimes, in World Order After Leninism (Vladimir Tismaneanu, Marc Morjé Howard & Rudra Sil eds., 2006).

48 Christopher S.P. Magee & John A Doces, Reconsidering Regime Type and Growth: Lies, Dictatorships, and Statistics, 59 Int'l Stud. Q. 223 (2015).

49 Jessica L. Weeks, Autocratic Audience Costs: Regime Type and Signaling Resolve, 62 Int'l Org. 65 (2008).

50 Detlev Vagts, Hegemonic International Law, 95 AJIL 843 (2001).

51 Id. at 846.

52 Anu Bradford & Eric A. Posner, Universal Exceptionalism in International Law?, 52 Harv. Int'l L.J. 3 (2011).

53 Cf. Congyan Cai, The Rise of China and International Law: Taking Chinese Exceptionalism Seriously 9 (2019) (states are both law users and law makers).

54 Bruce Russett & John R. Oneal, Triangulating Peace: Democracy, Interdependence, and International Organizations (2000).

55 Jon C. Pevehouse, Democracy from Above: Regional Organizations and Democratization (2005); Jon C. Pevehouse, Democracy from the Outside-In? International Organizations and Democratization, 56 Int'l Org 515 (2002); Edward D. Mansfield & Jon C. Pevehouse, Democratization and International Organizations, 60 Int'l Org. 137 (2006); Emilie Hafner-Burton, Trading Human Rights: How Preferential Trade Agreements Influence Government Repression, 59 Int'l Org 593 (2005); Paul Poast & Johannes Urpelainen, How International Organizations Support Democratization: Preventing Authoritarian Reversals or Promoting Consolidation?, 67 World Pol. 72 (2015).

56 See Martin Flaherty, Judicial Globalization in Service of Self-Government, 20 Eth. & Int'l Aff. 477 (2006); John Glenn, Global Governance and the Democratic Deficit: Stifling the Voice of the South, 29 Third World Q. 217 (2008); but see Theresa Squatrito, Conditions of Democracy-Enhancing Multilateralism: Expansion of Rights Protections in Europe?, 38 Rev. Int'l Stud. 707 (2012); Robert Keohane, Stephen Macedo & Andrew Moravcsik, Democracy-Enhancing Multilateralism, 63 Int'l Org. 1 (2009); see generally Global Governance and Democracy: A Multidisciplinary Analysis (Jan Wouters, Antoon Braeckman, Matthias Lievens & Emilie Bécault eds., 2015).

57 See Jorge Heine & Brigitte Weifen, 21st Century Democracy Promotion in the Americas: Standing Up for the Polity (2014); The International Dimensions of Democratization: Europe and the Americas (Lawrence Whitehead ed., 1996). For examples of democracy-promoting instruments, see Lomé Declaration for an OAU Response to Unconstitutional Changes of Government, AHG/Decl.5 (XXXVI); African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance; Decision on the Prevention of Unconstitutional Changes of Government and Strengthening the Capacity of the African Union (Assembly/A/Dec. 269 XIV); Inter-American Democratic Charter (2001).

58 See Eugénia C. Heldt & Henning Schmidtke, Global Democracy in Decline? How Rising Authoritarianism Limits Democratic Control Over International Institutions, 25 Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations 231 (2019).

59 Katsiaryna Yakouchyk, Beyond Autocracy Promotion: A Review, 17 Pol. Stud. Rev. 147 (2018); Thomas Carothers, The Backlash Against Democracy Promotion, 85 For. Aff. 55 (2006); Lawrence Whitehead, Anti-Democracy Promotion: Four Strategies in Search of a Framework, 10 Taiwan J. Dem. 1 (2014).

60 See generally Anastassia V. Obydenkova & Alexander Libman, Authoritarian Regionalism in the World of International Organizations: Global Perspective and the Eurasian Enigma (2019).

61 Bruce Russett, Christopher Layne, David E. Spiro & Michael W. Doyle, The Democratic Peace, 19 Int'l Sec. 164 (1995); John R. Oneal & Bruce M. Russett. The Classical Liberals Were Right: Democracy, Interdependence, and Conflict, 1950–1985, 41 Int'l Stud. Q. 267 (1997); Randolph M. Siverson & Juliann Emmons, Birds of a Feather: Democratic Political Systems and Alliance Choices in the Twentieth Century, 35 J. Conf. Res. 285 (1991).

62 John Gerring, et al., Conceptualizing and Measuring Democracy: A New Approach, 9 Persp. Pol. 247 (2011); Dryzek, supra note 19.

63 Another alternative cutoff is 7 or above. In the full dataset through 2017, 3.2% of country-years have score 6, and 3.2% have score 7, giving a sense of the range of variation introduced by the decision to use the cutoff of 6. For country-years after 1945, the percentages are 4.6% for score 6 and 4.2% for score 7.

64 Samuel Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century (1991).

65 The UNTS also includes some 5,650 treaties between countries and international organizations. Sixty percent of these (n=3360) are with democracies.

66 Unreported t-tests confirm these differences are significant at a 99% confidence level.

67 Megan Donaldson, The Survival of the Secret Treaty: Publicity, Secrecy, and Legality in the International Order, 111 AJIL 575 (2017). She cites an estimate that the overall registration of treaties is roughly about 50%. The idea that deposit would be necessary for bindingness was initially advanced through Article 18 of the Covenant of the League of Nations (“Every treaty or international engagement entered into hereafter by any Member of the League shall be forthwith registered with the Secretariat and shall as soon as possible be published by it. No such treaty or international engagement shall be binding until so registered.”). Its successor was Article 102 in the United Nations Charter.

68 Donaldson, supra note 67, at n. 278. Other data on file suggests that the differential treaty practices are less pronounced when it comes to international economic law. For investment, trade and labor agreements, authoritarians are significantly less likely to conclude treaties than are democracies, but more likely than what is reported above. For data, see Online Appendix, available at

70 Note the data excludes requests for revision or interpretation of a judgment but includes situations in which multiple suits are filed against different countries under the same set of facts. The data also excludes countries not rated in the Polity data, such as microstates like the Marshall Islands—even though that country has been continuously democratic since its independence in 1979 and has sued before the ICJ.

71 Russia was rated a six on the Polity scale that year, just at the conventional cutoff of democracy, but we include it in the discussion above in light of its subsequent slippage.

72 These were the two M/V Saiga cases brought in 1997 by St. Vincent and the Grenadines against Guinea, the Chaisiri Reefer 2 case brought by Panama against Yemen in 2001, the two cases involving the Hoshinmaru and Tomimaru brought in 2007 by Japan against Russia, and the Arctic Sunrise case brought in 2013 by the Netherlands against Russia.

73 UNCLOS Annex VII allows cases to be brought to arbitration at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. As of this writing, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) has served as registry for thirteen cases, all but one of which (Malaysia-Singapore, initiated in 2003 and settled in 2005) were initiated by democracies.

74 See, e.g., Philip Morris Asia Ltd v. Commonwealth of Australia, UNCITRAL, PCA Case No. 2012-12; Tokios Tokelės v. Ukraine, Decision on Jurisdiction and Dissent, ICSID Case No ARB/02/18, 20 ICSID Rev-FILJ 205, IIC 258 (2004)

75 Jon Pevehouse, Timothy Nordstrom & Kevin Warnke, Intergovernmental Organizations, 1815–2000: A New Correlates of War Data Set, Version 3.0 2.1, available at

76 Cristina Cottiero & Stephen Haggard, Stabilizing Authoritarian Rule: The Role of International Institutions (paper presented at annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, 2019).

77 Kenneth W. Abbott, Robert O. Keohane, Andrew Moravcsik, Anne-Marie Slaughter & Duncan Snidal, The Concept of Legalization, 54 Int'l Org. 401 (2000).

78 Democracies and International Law (draft on file with author).

79 Eric Reinhardt, Aggressive Multilateralism: The Determinants of GATT/WTO Dispute Initiation, 1948–1998, available at

80 Thomas Sattler & Thomas Bernauer, Dispute Initiation in the World Trade Organization, (manuscript), available at

81 Krysztof J. Pelc, What Explains the Low Success Rate of Investor-State Disputes?, 71 Int'l Org. 559 (2017).

82 Bernhard Boockman & Alex Dreher, Do Human Rights Offenders Oppose Human Rights Resolutions in the United Nations?, 146 Pub. Choice 443, 462 (2011).

83 Cosette D. Creamer & Beth A. Simmons, Do Self-Reporting Regimes Matter? Evidence from the Convention Against Torture, 63 Int'l Stud. Q. 1051 (2019).

84 Elkins, Ginsburg & Melton, supra note 8.

85 Id.

86 Sebastian Heilmann, Red Swan: How Unorthodox Policymaking Facilitated China's Rise (2018); Elizabeth Perry & Sebastian Heilmann, Embracing Uncertainty: Guerilla Policy Style and Adaptive Governance in China, in Mao's Invisible Hand: The Political Foundations of Adaptive Governance in China (Elizabeth J. Perry & Sebastian Heilmann eds., 2014); Elizabeth Perry, Growing Pains: Challenges for a Rising China, Daedalus (2014); Andrew J. Nathan, China's Changing of the Guard: Authoritarian Resilience, 14 J. Dem. 6 (2003); Anna Ahlers & Gunter Schubert, “Adaptive Authoritarianism” in Contemporary China: Identifying Zones of Legitimacy Building, in Reviving Legitimacy (Deng Zhenglai & Sujian Guo eds., 2011); David Shambaugh, China's Communist Party: Atrophy and Adaptation (2008); Titus Chen, China's Reaction to the Color Revolutions: Adaptive Authoritarianism in Full Swing, 34 Asian Persp. 5 (2010).

87 Susan L. Shirk, China: Fragile Superpower (2007); Gordon G. Chang, The Coming Collapse of China (2001).

88 Shambaugh, supra note 86.

89 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance Between the People's Republic of Albania, the People's Republic of Bulgaria, the Hungarian People's Republic, the German Democratic Republic, the Polish People's Republic, the Rumanian People's Republic, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Czechoslovak Republic, May 14, 1955, available at

90 Eric Richardson, NATO, The Warsaw Pact, and the Iron Curtain (2017).

91 Treaty of Friendship, supra note 89, at pmbl., Art. 9 (“The present Treaty is open to the accession of other states, irrespective of their social and political systems… .”).

92 Id.

93 Richardson, supra note 90.

94 NATO Treaty, Art. 11.

95 Harold Hongju Koh, How Is International Human Rights Law Enforced?, 74 Ind. L.J. 1397, 1401 (1999).

96 See, e.g., Protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty on the Accession of the Federal Republic of Germany, Paris (1955); Agreement Between the Parties to the North Atlantic Treaty Regarding the Status of Their Forces, June 19, 1951; Protocol on the Status of International Military Headquarters Set Up Pursuant to the North Atlantic Treaty, Aug. 28, 1952; Agreement Among the States Parties to the North Atlantic Treaty and the Other States Participating in the Partnership for Peace Regarding the Status of Their Forces, June 19, 1995.

97 Warsaw Pact, Art. 8 (1955).

98 A related organization that might be characterized as more functional was COMECON, created in 1949, which played a role in rationalizing communist planning across countries in the Soviet bloc. It thus had a genuine function, albeit one that was sustained by brute force. See Obydenkova & Libman, supra note 60, at 116.

99 See Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN] Charter (Nov. 20, 2007), available at The Charter was ratified by all ten members and came into force by October of 2008. ASEAN Press Release, ASEAN Embarks on New Era – Charter Fully Ratified (Oct. 21, 2008), at

100 See Pasha L. Hsieh & Bryan Mercurio, ASEAN Law in the New Regional Economic Order: An Introductory Roadmap to the ASEAN Economic Community, in ASEAN Law in the New Regional Economic Order: Global Trends and Shifting Paradigms 3, 10 (Pasha L. Hsieh & Bryan Mercurio eds., 2019)

101 Tom Ginsburg, Eastphalia and East Asian Regionalism, 44 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 859–77 (2011).

102 ASEAN Charter, supra note 99, at ch. I, Art. 2.2(a), (e). Compare Treaty on European Union, pmbl. (Feb. 7, 1992) (“RESOLVED to continue the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe.”).

103 See generally Bandung, Global History and International Law: Critical Pasts and Pending Futures (Luis Eslava, Michael Fakhri & Vashuki Nesiah eds., 2017); Zhou Gang, The Establishment of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and its Historical Contributions, Chinese People's Inst. of Foreign Affairs, 72 For. Aff. J. (2005).

104 Hannah Beech, With a Smile Southeast Asian Nations Protect an Authoritarian, N.Y. Times (Nov. 7. 2019), at

105 Id.

106 Yiamyut Sutthichaya & Thaweeporn Kummetha, Bangkok-Phnom Penh Deal? Deportation of Sam Sokha and Uncertain Future of Thai Exiles, Prachathai English (Feb 23, 2018), at

107 2019 ASEAN Model Extradition Treaty, adopted Oct. 12, 2018, available at

108 The Treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union, opened for signature May 29, 2014. Along with Tajikistan, these are the nations that are member states in the Russian sponsored Eurasian Development Bank.

109 Seljan Verdiyeva, The Eurasian Economic Union: Problems and Prospects, 19 J. World Inv. & Trade 722 (2018).

110 Alexander Libman & Anastassia V. Obydenkova, Regional International Organizations as a Strategy of Autocracy: The Eurasian Economic Union and Russian Foreign Policy, 94 Int'l Aff. 1037 (2018);see generally Obydenkova & Libman, supra note 60.

111 Ekaterina Diyachenko & Kirill Entin, The Court of the Eurasian Economic Union: Challenges and Perspectives, 5 Russian L.J. 53 (2017), at

112 Id.

113 Alessandro Romano, Wrong Way to Direct Effect? Case Note on the Advisory Opinion of the Court of the Eurasian Economic Union Delivered on 4 April 2017 at the Request of the Republic of Belarus, 45 Leg. Issues Econ. Integration 211 (2018).

114 Treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union, supra note 108, Annex 2, Art. 102.

115 Id., Annex 2, Art. 111.

116 Cooperation Between the United Nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, adopted November 11, 2014, UN Doc. A/RES/69/11.

117 SCO Anti-Cyber-Terrorism Drill Held in China, Shine (Dec. 12, 2019), at

118 Richard Weitz, The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO): Rebirth and Regeneration? – Analysis, Eurasia Rev. (Oct. 10, 2014), at

119 Richard Weitz, The Shanghai Cooperation Organization: A Fading Star?, Asan F. (July–Aug 2014), at

120 Amit R. Saksena, The Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Central Asian Security, Diplomat (July 25, 2014), at; Weiqing Song, Interests, Power and China's Difficult Game in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), 23 J. Contemp. China 85 (2014), available at

121 David Suter, China Forging International Law: The SCO Experience, Diplomat (Sept. 7, 2014), at

122 See, e.g., Dushanbe Declaration of Chapters of State Members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Aug. 28, 2008, available at; Bardo Fassbender, What's in a Name? The International Rule of Law and the United Nations Charter, 17 Chinese J. Int'l L. 761 (2018) (describing evolution of thicker concept of rule of law.)

123 See, e.g., GA Res. 67/1 Declaration of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels, para. 2 (adopted Sept. 24, 2012); Edric Selous, The Rule of Law and the Debate on it in the United Nations, in The Rule of Law and Its Application to the United Nations 13 (Clemens A. Feinäugle ed., 2016).

124 Suter, supra note 121.

125 Id.

126 Thomas Ambrosio, Catching the “Shanghai Spirit”: How the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Promotes Authoritarian Norms in Central Asia, 60 Eur.-Asia Stud. 1321 (2008).

127 Id.

128 Michael Fredholm, Too Many Plans for War, Too Few Common Values: Another Chapter in the History of the Great Game or the Guarantor of Central Asian Security?, in The Shanghai Economic Cooperation and Eurasian Geopolitics 16 (Michael Fredholm & Birgit N. Schlyter eds., 2013); Weitz, supra note 119.

129 The Declaration of the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China on the Promotion of International Law, June 25, 2016, available at

130 Id., para. 1.

131 Id., para. 5.

132 Id., para. 9.

133 The Republic of the Philippines v. The People's Republic of China, PCA 2013–19. Indeed the decision in that case was issued only two weeks later.

134 Cai, supra note 53, at 324–26.

135 A New Battleground, Economist, Dec. 7, 2019, at 41.

136 Yin He, China's Changing Policy on UN Peacekeeping Operations, 69 (Stockholm: Institute for Security and Development Policy, 2007), available at

137 Ann Kent, China's International Socialization: The Role of International Organizations, 8 Glob. Governance 343 (2002).

138 Hendrick Talley & Asaf Lubin, The International Law of Rabble-Rousing, 45 Yale J. Int'l L. Online (forthcoming); Björnstjern Baade, Fake News and International Law, 29 Eur. J. Int'l L. 1357 (2018); Barrie Sander, Democracy Under The Influence: Paradigms of State Responsibility for Cyber Influence Operations on Elections, 18 Chinese J. Int'l L. 1 (2019); Duncan Hollis, The Influence of War; the War for Influence, 32 Temp. Int'l & Comp. L.J. 31 (2018); Jens David Ohlin, Did Russian Cyber Interference in the 2016 Election Violate International Law, 95 Tex. L. Rev. 1579 (2017); Oisin Tansey, International Politics of Authoritarian Rule 128 (2016).

139 It is unclear whether such interference violates the proscription against coercive intervention, laid out by the ICJ. Military and Paramilitary Activities in and Against Nicaragua (Nicar. v. U.S.), Merits, 1986 ICJ Rep. 14, 108 (June 27) (“intervention is wrongful when it uses methods of coercion” and “the element of coercion … defines, and indeed forms the very essence of, prohibited intervention”)

140 Rachel Vanderhill, Promoting Authoritarianism Abroad 104 (2016).

141 Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism, June 15, 2001 (entered into force Mar. 29, 2003).

142 The 2001 Convention defines “terrorism” as “any act recognized as an offence in one of the treaties listed in the Annex to this Convention (hereinafter referred to as “the Annex”) and as defined in this Treaty; b. other act intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to a civilian, or any other person not taking an active part in the hostilities in a situation of armed conflict or to cause major damage to any material facility, as well as to organize, plan, aid and abet such act, when the purpose of such act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, violate public security or to compel public authorities or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act, and prosecuted in accordance with the national laws of the Parties.”

143 Separatism is “any act intended to violate territorial integrity of a State including by annexation of any part of its territory or to disintegrate a State, committed in a violent manner, as well as planning and preparing, and abetting such act, and subject to criminal prosecuting in accordance with the national laws of the Parties.” Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism, Art. 1(2).

144 Id. Art. 1(3).

145 Joyce Y.M. Nip, Extremist Mobs? How China's Propaganda Machine Tried to Control the Message in the Hong Kong Protests, Conversation (July 15, 2019), at Note that the SCO's stance on Hong Kong has been to call for noninterference in a domestic Chinese matter. SCO Secretary-General Issues Statement on HKSAR, China Daily (Sept. 24. 2019), at

146 Convention of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Against Terrorism, June 16, 2009; Convention of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on Combating Extremism, June 9, 2017.

147 Id.

148 Rashid Alimov, The Role of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Countering Threats to Peace and Security, UN Chronicle, at [visited Nov. 1, 2019].

149 Antonio Cassese, Self-Determination of Peoples: A Legal Reappraisal (1999)

150 Reference by the Governor in Council Concerning Certain Questions Relating to the Secession of Quebec from Canada ([1998] 2 Supreme Court Reporter (SCR) 217; 161 Dominion Law Reports (DLR) (4th) 385; 115 ILR 536).

151 Accordance with International Law of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in Respect of Kosovo, Advisory Opinion, 2010 ICJ. Rep. 403 (July 22).

152 Police Clear Protestors from Panama's Congress, AP News (Oct. 29, 2019), at; John Bartlett, “The Constitution of the Dictatorship Has Died”: Chile Agrees Deal on Reform Vote, Guardian (Nov. 15, 2019), at

153 Zhao Huasheng, China's View of and Expectations from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, 53 Asian Surv. 436 (2013); David Ward, The Shanghai Cooperation Organization's Bid to Transform International Law, 11 BYU Int'l L. & Mgmt. R. 162 (2015), available at

154 Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights: The Impact of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (Human Rights in China Whitepaper, Mar. 2011).

155 Vincent DeFabo, Terrorist or Revolutionary? The Development of the Political Offender Exception and its Effects on Defining Terrorism in International Law, 2 Am. U. Nat'l Sec. L. Brief 69, 70 (2012).

156 UN Office on Drugs & Crime, Revised Manuals on the Model Treaty on Extradition and on the Model Treaty on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, at 10 (2002), available at

157 DeFabo, supra note 155, at 74.

158 See, e.g., Extradition Treaty Between the United States of America and Antigua and Barbuda, Art. 4.2(b), June 3, 2019; China-Lesotho Extradition Treaty, Art. 3(1) (political offenses do not include “Criminal acts referred to in multilateral agreements to which both Contracting States are parties and are obliged to extradite or prosecute”).

159 Justin Sherman & Mark Raymond, The U.N. Passed a Russia-Backed Cybercrime Resolution. That's Not Good News for Internet Freedom, Wash. Post (Dec. 4, 2019), at; GA Res. 74/L.11, Countering the Use of Use of Information and Communications Technologies for Criminal Purposes (Nov. 5, 2019), at

160 Sherman and Raymond, supra note 159.

161 GA Res. 72/12, Draft United Nations Convention on Cooperation in Combatting Cybercrime, Oct. 16, 2017, at

162 Compare Convention on Cybercrime, Art. 15, available at (states “shall incorporate the principle of proportionality”) with Draft United Nations Convention on Cooperation in Combating Cybercrime, Art. 22, UN Doc. A/C.3/72/12) (no mention of proportionality). The Budapest Convention mentions human rights in the preamble, whereas the Draft Convention does not.

163 Draft Convention, supra note 161, Art. 3.

164 Id. Art. 6 (unauthorized access); Art. 17 (international treaties). The proposed draft also targets a number of practices outside the scope of the Budapest Convention, including phishing, spam, and malware.

165 Edith M. Lederer, UN Gives Green Light to New Treaty to Combat Cybercrime, AP News (Dec. 27, 2019), at; Ellen Nakashima, U.N. Votes to Advance Russian-Led Resolution on a Cybercrime Treaty, Wash. Post (Nov. 19, 2019), at

166 Sherman & Raymond, supra note 159.

167 Id.

168 Ass'n for Progressive Communications, Open Letter to the UN General Assembly: Proposed International Convention on Cybercrime Poses a Threat to Human Rights Online (Nov. 2019), at

169 Id.

170 Sherman and Raymond, supra note 159.

171 Id.

172 Id.

173 See Universal Rights Group, UN Human Rights Resolution Portal, at

175 Ted Piccone, China's Long Game on Human Rights at the United Nations, Brookings Inst., available at

176 Id.

177 State Council, China and the World in the New Era, at 38 (Sept. 2019).

178 Patrick Merloe, Authoritarianism Goes Global: Election Monitoring vs. Disinformation, 26 J. Dem. 79 (2015); Christopher Walker, The Authoritarian Threat: The Hijacking of “Soft Power, 27 J. Dem. 49 (2016); Lee Morgenbesser, Fake Monitors Endorse Cambodia's Sham Election, For. Pol'y (July 30, 2018), at

179 Obydenkova & Libman,supra note 60, at 162–64.

180 Alexander Cooley, The League of Authoritarian Gentlemen, For. Pol'y (Jan. 30, 2013), at

181 Morgenbesser, supra note 178.

182 Christopher Walker & Alexander Cooley, Vote of the Living Dead, For. Pol'y (Oct. 31, 2013), at; Judith G. Kelley, Monitoring Democracy: When International Election Observation Works, and Why It Often Fails (2012).

183 Jeroen van der Heijden, Institutional Layering: A Review of the Use of the Concept, 31 Pol. 9 (2011).

184 G. John Ikenberry & Darren Lim, China's Emerging Institutional Statecraft: The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Prospects for Counter-hegemony, Brookings Inst. (Apr. 2017), at

185 See Karen Alter, James T. Gathii & Laurence R. Helfer, Backlash Against International Courts in West, East and Southern Africa: Causes and Consequences, 27 Eur. J. Int'l L. 293 (2016); Mikael Rask Madsen, Pola Ceublak & Micha Weibusch, Backlash Against International Courts: Explaining Resistance to International Courts, 14 Int'l J. L. Context 197 (2018); Daniel Abebe & Tom Ginsburg, The Dejudicialization of International Politics?, 63 Int'l Stud. Q. 521 (2019); Tendayi Achiume, The SADC Tribunal: Socio-political Dissonance and the Authority of International Courts, in How Context Shapes the Authority of International Courts (Karen J. Alter, Laurence R. Helfer & Mikael Rask Madsen eds., 2017); but see Laurence R. Helfer, Overlegalizing Human Rights: International Relations Theory and the Commonwealth Caribbean Backlash Against Human Rights Regimes, 102 Colum. L. Rev 1832 (2002) (democratic countries leading backlash).

186 Kamari M. Clarke, Abel S. Knottnerus & Eefje De Volder, Africa and the ICC: Perceptions of Justice (2016); see also Daly, Thomas Gerald & Wiebusch, Micha, The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights: Mapping Resistance Against a Young Court, 14 Int'l J. L. Context 102 (2018).

187 Slaughter, Anne Marie & Burke-White, William W., The Future of International Law is Domestic (Or, the European Way of Law), 47 Harv. Int'l L.J. 327 (2006); Mark Leonard, Why Europe Will Run the 21st Century 43–46 (2005).

188 Slaughter and Burke-White, supra note 187, at 331.

189 Alvarez, José, Do Liberal States Behave Better? A Critique of Slaughter's Liberal Theory, 12 Eur. J. Int'l L. 183 (2001).

190 Vagts, supra note 50.

191 Ginsburg, Tom, Eastphalia as the Perfection of Westphalia, 17 Ind. J. Glob. Leg. Stud. 27 (2010).

192 Matthew Erie, Chinese Law and Development, 62 Harv. Int'l L.J. __ (forthcoming 2020).

Authoritarian International Law?

  • Tom Ginsburg (a1)


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