Democracy and Regime Change in the Post-Cold War International Law
New Zealand Journal of Public and International Law, Vol. 11 (2013) 349
32 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2014
Date Written: December 31, 2013
International human rights treaties were drafted in the age of the Cold War. In this environment, they remained neutral with respect to the particular political system or electoral method. In the post-Cold War era, scholarly arguments have been made that contemporary international law should be read with a democratic bias. Analysing the practice of states and United Nations organs, this article critically considers the democratic reading of international legal norms and argues that even in the post-Cold War era, a state does not violate international law simply by not being democratic. But this conclusion is not unqualified. The article demonstrates that collective practice is emerging of denial of legitimacy to coup governments where they overthrow democratically-elected ones. Governments can also lose international legitimacy on the basis of their abusiveness, although the latter is not necessarily determined by a lack of democratic electoral practices. Finally, where a regime change is internationalised, a collective attempt is commonly made to enact a new democratic government. Although not a legal norm per se, democracy is often an international policy preference which has influenced even some legally-binding documents adopted in the post-Cold War period.
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