The Principal–Agent Model
This chapter argues that external restraints on states’ power will have to make sense of the ambiguous and conflicting rules regarding the exercise of sovereign prerogatives in international law. Fundamentally, the problem of deciding which rules apply to state behavior is an institutional problem. States engage in a wide range of patterns of abuses against their citizens and foreign nationals, from small or haphazard daily indignities, to massive violations of rights such as forceful displacement, mass killings, rape, and widespread torture. Judging those patterns requires procedures for making rules, interpreting the rules in light of specific instances of abuse, and determining the appropriate response in each context. The chapter develops a delegation model of political authority for specific international institutions that are empowered to act as fiduciary agents for people living in separate states with respect to a narrow range of human rights norms, namely jus cogens.
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