Resurgent Authoritarianism and the International Rule of Law
KFG Working Paper Series, No. 38, Berlin Potsdam Research Group “The International Rule of Law – Rise or Decline?”
31 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2019
Date Written: September 2019
Modern rule of law and post-war constitutionalism are both anchored in rights-based limitations on state authority. Rule-of-law norms and principles, at both domestic and international levels, are designed to protect the freedom and dignity of the person. Given this “thick” conception of the rule of law, authoritarian practices that remove constraints on domestic political leaders and weaken mechanisms for holding them accountable necessarily erode both domestic and international rule of law. Drawing on political science research on authoritarian politics, this study identifies three core elements of authoritarian political strategies: subordination of the judiciary, suppression of independent news media and freedom of expression, and restrictions on the ability of civil society groups to organize and participate in public life. According to available data, each of these three practices has become increasingly common in recent years. This study offers a composite measure of the core authoritarian practices and uses it to identify the countries that have shown the most marked increases in authoritarianism. The spread and deepening of these authoritarian practices in diverse regimes around the world diminishes international rule of law. The conclusion argues that resurgent authoritarianism degrades international rule of law even if this is defined as the specifically post-Cold War international legal order.
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