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Abstract

This thesis addresses the question whether the international community is embracing normative legitimacy as a community interest for common legitimate governance values and how this interest may be reflected in and protected through international law. Following a historical-theoretical assessment and a focus on 2008-2014 cases in and beyond the ‘Arab Spring’ (Mauritania, Honduras, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Libya and Syria), this thesis argues for the existence of such community interest for common values, consisting of a ‘Western’-inspired “normative trio” of Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law. Identifying the consequences of illegitimate governance, it is shown that presented with a choice between actors – one with effective control, but no respect for international governance standards, and one with a recognizable majority backing and striving for ‘legitimate’ governance, the international community recognizes the latter as de jure government. If the alternative actor lacks sufficient popular backing or credibility, representative powers of the ‘illegitimate’ actor are limited. As the selective application of the Responsibility to Protect with its linkages to legitimizing governance had little normative relevance, the enforcement of this community interest shows inconsistencies. Targeted sanctions and international individual responsibilities pierce the veil of the protective legal fiction of the State, increasingly pointing at individuals directly for their illegitimate governance. While the emergence of normative content is increasingly subject to diverging practice, this thesis finds evidence for an emerging right to attain democratic governance and an emerged right to continued democratic governance.

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