Call for Papers: Political Legal Theory of International Courts and Tribunals 2020

PluriCourts Annual Workshop on The Political and Legal Theory of International Courts and Tribunals 2020: Independence, accountability, and domination in International Courts (Oslo, July 20-21 2020).

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Call for papers

PluriCourts announces a workshop that brings together scholars of philosophy, political theory and legal theory who study one or more regional and international courts and tribunals (ICs), and in particular issues concerning the independence and accountability of ICs, and questions concerning domination.

States have established manifold regional and international ICs to resolve disputes, interpret treaties, and deter illegal behavior. These ICs cover a range of issues including, human rights, trade, investment, border disputes, and international crimes. ICs’ competences, level of authority, method of interpretation, and geographical reach widely vary. ICs’ increase in number and influence has spawned controversy and complaints, often phrased as charges that they are illegitimate. We especially invite papers that address one or more such ICs concerning the following themes. The workshop welcomes both abstract and practice-focused perspectives.

Independence, accountability, and domination

Critics of ICs frequently claim that ICs have gained too much independent authority. They lament juristocracy: the arbitrary rule of autocratic judges rather than democratic decisions and the rule of law. This critique is often phrased as concerns about domination. It is feared that the independent authority of ICs, together with the deep consequences of their decision making, may result in arbitrary and illegitimate exercise of power. At the same time, independence of certain kinds is important for courts to function properly. Independence can indeed be seen as necessary for impartiality and for courts’ abilities to legitimately settle disputes. More generally, ICs are by many seen not as the source of the problem of domination in international affairs, but rather as a response and a remedy to the lawlessness and power abuses that plagues international politics. The tension between independence and accountability, and the conditions under which the power and authority of ICs should be seen as dominating or non-dominating, raises both philosophical and more practice-oriented questions about the activities of ICs. We invite papers that explore various aspects of domination and non-domination, accountability, and independence in the context of ICs. The following indicate some of several possible issues:

  • The independent authority of ICs as a legitimacy problem
  • International juristocracy and judicialization
  • The relationship between concepts such as authority, power, legitimacy, and non-domination in the context of ICs.
  • Independence of ICs as contributing to the legitimate settlement of disputes
  • ICs’ legitimate discretion in interpreting and applying the law
  • The composition of ICs and institutional rules for selecting judges, or other aspects of the desired form of independence and accountability with implications for the legitimacy of ICs
  • The concept of domination applied to ICs, and the conditions under which ICs may be a dominating force in international politics
  • The conditions under which ICs’ authority is appropriately checked and controlled so as to be non-arbitrary and non-dominating
  • The proper role of ICs in a non-dominating international order
  • The concept and standards of legitimacy, more generally, for ICs from the perspectives of history of ideas and/or contemporary legal and political theory, such as human rights, transparency, or rule of law
  • Law and morality in international adjudication




  • December 1, 2019 Expression of interest with provisional paper title, abstract (max. 400 words),
  • January 13, 2020 Decisions on acceptance of proposals
  • January 24, 2020 Deadline to apply for travel grant (please indicate costs of flights and hotel and the amount you request a grant for)
  • July 1, 2020 Draft papers due
  • July 20-21, 2020 Workshop on Zoom

About PluriCourts

PluriCourts is a multidisciplinary Centre of Excellence whose overriding research objective is to analyze and assess the legitimate present and future roles of this international judiciary in the global legal order. Why and when are these international courts and tribunals legitimate authorities, whose decisions should enjoy deference by various domestic and international ‘compliance communities’? The PluriCourts Research Plan is available here:


Tags: Human Rights, Criminal law, Trade, Investment, Environment, ITLOS, ICJ, CJEU, Legitimacy, Independence and accountability, authority, Performance, Comparative advantages, Models
Published Oct. 8, 2019 4:11 PM - Last modified June 8, 2020 3:44 PM