Brooklyn Journal of International Law

First Page



Many populist demagogues in America and Europe have spoken; and continue to speak; against human rights in their campaigns for political office. This article discusses the factors that have contributed to the current wave of populism; and the nature of the challenges that are presented by populism to democracy; human rights; and constitutionalism from an international human rights law perspective. It also focuses on President Donald Trump; who was voted President of the United States; even after he clearly and publicly indicated his support for torture and his intentions to approve it in the United States. To that end; the article asks what a state should do when faced with such populist demagogues; arguing that international law authorizes states to disqualify such candidates from running for public office. In certain circumstances; especially those involving human rights norms that are part of customary international law; there is a state obligation to exclude those who plan to violate them. Of course; such exclusion limits certain rights; such as freedom of expression; the right to vote; and the right to run for public office. Such limitations are not only justifiable for their pursuance of a legitimate aim; but also necessary and proportionate.