Responsibility for Regime Change

80 Pages Posted: 11 Nov 2017

Date Written: November 8, 2017


What obligations does a state have after it forcibly overthrows the regime of another state or territory? The Hague Regulations and the Fourth Geneva Convention provide some answers, but their prohibition on interfering with the governing structure of the targeted territory is outmoded. Based on a careful examination of subsequent practice of the parties to the conventions, this Article asserts a new interpretation of these treaties and argues that regime changers are now under positive obligations in the postwar period and beyond.

Through their conduct and evaluation of modern regime-change missions, states, both individually and acting collectively through international organizations, have manifested revised understandings of obligations in the postconflict phase of military operations. Accordingly, this Article argues that regime-changing states now not only have Geneva-based direct obligations to establish security in the territory, promote representative local government, protect the human rights of the local population, assist with postconflict reconstruction, and safeguard minority groups while exercising control over the territory, but also that such states must ensure that the successor regime — whose installation their initial military intervention facilitated — is one that respects international human rights law.

Keywords: regime change, post-conflict obligations, military intervention, occupation

Suggested Citation

Butler, Jay, Responsibility for Regime Change (November 8, 2017). Columbia Law Review, Vol. 114, 2014, Available at SSRN:

Jay Butler (Contact Author)

University of Virginia ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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