International Enforcement Courts

43 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 1 Sep 2015

See all articles by Karen J. Alter

Karen J. Alter

Northwestern University - Department of Political Science; University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Law - iCourts Center of Excellence

Date Written: August 25, 2011


International enforcement courts are explicitly empowered to rule on state compliance with international law. Part I identifies the universe of permanent international courts (ICs) with delegated enforcement roles and it explains why states are increasingly consenting to robust compulsory international judicial review of state compliance. Part II focuses on enforcement courts as they influence state behavior and international politics. Examining four detailed case studies, I explain the mobilization and influence of ICs over time. The cases are intentionally diverse, including WTO review of the United States Foreign Sales Corporation policy, a challenge to a Peruvian decree designed to circumvent Andean prohibitions against second use patents, the ECOWAS court’s finding that Niger failed to protect a former slave, and the indictment and subsequent arrest the President of Liberia for war crimes committed in a neighboring state. I argue that across courts, cases and subject matter, ICs influence political outcomes by providing sources of leverage that domestic and international interlocutors use to tip the political balance in favor of those actors who prefer law compliance, for whatever reason. Overall, the book will have approximately eighteen cases, showing a variety of ways that ICs tip the political balance in international and domestic politics.

Keywords: International Law, Human Rights, International Courts, Slavery, War Crimes, Intellectual Property

Suggested Citation

Alter, Karen J., International Enforcement Courts (August 25, 2011). APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Karen J. Alter (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Department of Political Science ( email )

601 University Place
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Law - iCourts Center of Excellence ( email )

Karen Blixens Plads 16
Copenhagen, DK-2300

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