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Erga Omnes Norms and the Enforcement of International Law

Alexander Stremitzer

UCLA School of Law

March 1, 2009

Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Vol. 165, No. 1, pp. 29-32, 2009

Under traditional "two-party" norms of international law, an aggression by state X against state Y only gives state Y the right to retaliate. If, however, a matter of international law is governed by "erga omnes" norms, all states are entitled to engage in countermeasures. This raises the question why some international legal norms have the status of erga omnes while others do not. Posner [2008] argues that erga omnes rules are likely to emerge in areas where, on average, externalities due to the original aggression are high, motives for taking norm violation as a pretext for engaging in predatory behaviour are weak, and incentives for free-riding are strong. Moreover, he predicts that erga omnes rules will reduce free-riding and hence increase the probability of enforcement. We shall argue herein that erga omnes rules can actually have the opposite effect of increasing free-riding and reducing the probability of enforcement. This might explain why genocide in Dafur is ongoing despite (or even because) being governed by an erga omnes norm.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 5

Keywords: international law, erga omnes norms, bystander effect

JEL Classification: K33

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Date posted: July 30, 2008 ; Last revised: July 24, 2010

Suggested Citation

Stremitzer, Alexander, Erga Omnes Norms and the Enforcement of International Law (March 1, 2009). Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Vol. 165, No. 1, pp. 29-32, 2009. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1187579 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1187579

Contact Information

Alexander Stremitzer (Contact Author)
UCLA School of Law ( email )
405 Hilgard Avenue
Box 90095-1476
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.law.ucla.edu/faculty/all-faculty-profiles/professors/Pages/Alexander-Stremitzer.aspx
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