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Regional regimes for the defense of democracy and coups d'etat

Jacob P Wobig, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Does international law work, and if so, how? In the last twenty years eight regional intergovernmental organizations have adopted treaties requiring all participants to be democracies and specifying sanctions to be leveled against members that cease to be democracies. In this work I examine to what extent these agreements are helping protect the governments of their members from coups. I find that, between 1991 and 2008, states subject to these treaties were less likely to experience attempted coups d’etat, and were less likely to be overthrown when coups were attempted, but that the evidence varies widely in particular cases. Case studies of coups in Honduras, Mali and Thailand support the view that coup leaders do take such treaties into account when choosing coup consolidation tactics such as coup-legitimating rhetoric and selecting members of the coup coalition. All in all, these regimes show promise if not yet dispositive effect. However, these findings cast some doubt on the efficacy of international human rights law more generally. State leaders have a direct self-interest in maintaining an effective coup-prevention regime. If they are no more effective at this than this evidence suggests, they are unlikely to enforce more conventional human rights agreements that less directly impact their own interests.

Subject Area

Political science|International law

Recommended Citation

Wobig, Jacob P, "Regional regimes for the defense of democracy and coups d'etat" (2013). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3559533.