The Legitimacy of International Courts – J Political Philosophy

Journal of Political Philosophy 2020. States are free, yet everywhere live under international courts and tribunals (ICs). As they proliferate and gain power across ever more domains, ICs become targets of resistance and criticism that they are illegitimate authorities. What reasons might a state have to defer to an IC’s judgment or interpretation, even when the state regards it as mistaken, and even when it conflicts with the interests and objectives of government? Section I sketches the multiple tasks of ICs, in complex interdependence with other actors. Their core task is to adjudicate disputes through interpretation and application of international law by legal methods. This may also contribute indirectly to a range of further tasks. Section II addresses some aspects of the relation between normative legitimacy of ICs and descriptive legitimacy – actors’ beliefs therein. Section III shows how a wide range of legitimacy challenges concern ways ICs fail to carry out their tasks. This account does not seek to provide substantive arguments or seek to show that all such criticisms are correct. The aims are rather to make many such criticisms comprehensible as legitimacy concerns, to provide a rationale for popular taxonomies of legitimacy criticisms, and to indicate which premises and arguments are required for such criticisms to be sound.[D0I/LINK] [SSRN]

Legitimacy Criticisms of International Courts: Not Only Fuzzy Rhetoric?

in Legitimacy: The State and Beyond, ed. W. Sadurski, M. Sevel & K. Walton. Oxford, Oxford University Press 2019: 223-237. Many claims that international courts (ICs) are illegitimate are related in complex ways – differently in fields ranging from human rights to trade. This is not to deny that some talk of the illegitimacy of ICs is inaccurate or wrong. But it is possible and indeed valuable to develop a coherent account that connects several various usages, so as to specify better, worse and downright mistaken claims concerning the legitimacy of ICs. normative legitimacy provides helpful unity to many of the canvassed forms of legitimacy. The particular substantive normative conception of global justice to be respected and promoted by these institutions is not central to this task. I develop the outline of a theory by drawing on Joseph Raz’ ‘service conception’ of normatively legitimate authority, David Easton’s ‘systems analysis,’ and a cosmopolitan normative theory. Section 1 sketches relevant aspects of Raz’ account of legitimate authority: the service conception. Section 2 lays out some normative standards relevant for the ICs. The next sections then elaborate why, on the service conception, various legitimacy conceptions matter for normative legitimacy: why legality matters (section 3) including some reasons for the (limited) significance of state consent – even by rogue states. Section 4 starts to explore why and when actual compliance is important but not always decisive. Section 5 considers why the performance or effects of an IC matters. [WEB].

Review of Hathaway and Shapiro The Internationalists

-“More Than Meets the Eye – and Less: On the Internationalists.” Global Constitutionalism 7 (3): 330-341. These comments explore further some game theoretical themes of O Hathaway and S Shapiro The Internationalists (2017) of how outlawing of war led to profound changes in international relations even when the norm was breached. The Peace Pact arguably contributed to avoid war by creating institutions – such as international courts – that helped stabilize an assurance game among states by providing trustworthy information and commitments, in turn influencing practices and beliefs concerning mutual non-aggression.
Second, the authors at times claim that the Peace Pact was not only a cause of, but the cause of the massive shift in reduced warfare. Further arguments would be required to substantiate that this treaty not only was a necessary condition, but the trigger that ‘began a cascade’ (xv). Other factors might also have been necessary, and equally deserving of the label ‘triggers,’ – such as increased global interdependence, or democratization. The authors might best modify their claim.
Third, the authors claim not only to present a historical account, but also to draw lessons for the future. At a time when international norms and institutions are under severe pressure, such lessons are very welcome. However, there are reasons to be less optimistic than the authors about the extent of lessons we can draw from The Internationalists about how to preserve and improve on the New World Order of the Pact, rather than backsliding into the Old World Order.[D0I/LINK] [WEB]

“Power or Authority; Actions or Beliefs”

in International Court Authority. K. Alter, L. Helfer & M. R. Madsen. New York, Oxford University Press: 412-421. Institutional, political and social circumstances affect the impact of international courts (‘ICs’). The valuable and intellectually intriguing aim of the project in this volume, ‘The Variable Authority of International Courts’ is to develop and apply a metric to assess the effects of some of these contexts.
The chapter discusses two questions concerning the project. What do they seek to measure with their metric – and are the findings actually about authority? Furthermore, AHM go to great lengths to proclaim methodological agnosticism about actors’ beliefs and motives, and argue for the irrelevance of normative legitimacy for this research project. Yet the former claim seems incorrect and the second is both unnecessary and ill defended. [D0I/LINK] [SSRN] [WEB].

Appreciating the Margin of Appreciation

How should an international human rights court best pay due respect to both the treaty and to its sovereign creators? The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) is a prime case. It reviews whether states uphold their obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The Court is also authorized to rule on whether states may violate certain of their citizens’ rights – as the Convention permits – in order to protect morals, the conflicting rights of others, national security or other considerations (e.g. Articles 8 and 15).
One mechanism that arguably serves to reduce the risk that the ECtHR will abuse its power is the margin of appreciation (MA) doctrine that the Court has developed. The Court grants states the authority to decide, in some cases, whether they are in compliance with their treaty obligations. Is the MA doctrine a sound response to this perceived dilemma between majoritarian democracy and protection of human rights? The present chapter presents and defends some form of the MA doctrine precisely as a contribution by the Court to both protect human rights and to promote domestic democracies. I also suggest reforms to render it more legitimate. in Human Rights: Moral or Political?. A. Etinson. Oxford, Oxford University Press: 269-294. [SSRN] [WEB].

The Judicialization of International Law – a Mixed Blessing?

International courts and tribunals are increasing in number and importance. They address an expanding variety of issues, ranging from the law of the sea to international criminal law. .. international relations are increasingly judicialized. The present book maps and assesses this development – and reactions thereto, because the trends have met with mixed responses… The Judicialization of International Law – a Mixed Blessing?. A. Follesdal & G. Ulfstein, eds. Oxford, Oxford University Press [D0I/LINK] [SSRN] [WEB].

A Framework for Evaluating the Performance of International Courts and Tribunals

While prior studies have tended to focus on specific questions relating either to the design or to the effects of international courts, we develop an integrated framework for the study of the performance of ICs. .. We explore factors that may explain the patterns of performance we observe. …We are interested both in the outcomes courts produce and the processes through which they arrive at judgments…. To know whether regimes or governance systems are effective, then, we argue that it is imperative to ask whether international courts perform their roles well or poorly….
in The Performance of International Courts and Tribunals. T. Squatrito, O. Young, A. Follesdal & G. Ulfstein (eds). Cambridge, Cambridge University Press: 3-35. [D0I/LINK] [WEB].