The Political Economy of Jus Cogens

This Article examines the basis of an asserted jus cogens exception to sovereign immunity. It demonstrates that the vision of jus cogens one embraces depends on background assumptions about the present and future of the international system. A robust conception of jus cogens assumes: (1) that independent judges and tribunals, informed by the views of non-state actors, can identify core international obligations and manage their tradeoffs with other values pursued by the international legal system, and (2) that the actions of independent judges and tribunals, informed by non-state actors, will influence state behavior. Doubts about the abilities of judges and tribunals, or fear about the rise of powerful and authoritarian actors in the international system, leads to a much narrower role for jus cogens, and thus broader sovereign immunity.

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