Pursuant to the international law, Is it illegal to perform a coup in a country ? Will the new government be recognized by the international community/United Nations? I would be grateful if you could refer to concrete laws

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    Not sure that there are concrete laws. You could look to past precedent instead.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 14:10
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    I disagree with the close reason, because this question asks about international law and governmental recognition and not about possible crimes committed by an individual. I do agree with @StuartF that it might be better to rephrase the question to focus on what it takes for a coup government to be recognized by the international community. That answer could be found in international law, but it doesn't have to.
    – xyldke
    Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 14:24
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    @xyldke though the questions aren't exact duplicates, they are both too unspecific in what they mean by a coup. As Philipp's comment on the other question points out, it's not clear what actions happen along with the coup which may or may not be legal. As for recognition, it's asking us to speculate on hypothetical future events. I'll change the close reason on this one because you're right that the duplicate closure might be confusing.
    – JJJ
    Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 14:38
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    There is no world parliament passing world laws. All there is are agreements between sovereign states and the United Nations, where sovereign states meet to order their affairs. The UN was (mostly) designed to respect the concept of Westphalian sovereignty, with very little regulation on how nations conduct their internal affairs. How could it be any different, if the Soviet Union and nationalist China sat at the table?
    – o.m.
    Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 15:40
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    @o.m.: The Nicaragua ICJ case is somewhat relevant here. Basically arming a guerilla to fight in a foreign country was legally deemed interference in internal affairs. Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 16:33

4 Answers 4


Pursuant to the international law, Is it illegal to perform a coup in a country?


Will the new government be recognized by the international community/United Nations?

This is decided on a case by cases basis. Sometimes coup regimes are recognized as legitimate, sometimes they are not. Each country makes the decision on a case by case basis in a decision that considers the recognizing country's interests, the legality of the coup under the domestic law of the pre-coup country, the legitimacy of the pre-coup regime, and many other factors. Eventually, if the reality on the ground is that the coup regime is fully in control, it is usually eventually recognized as legitimate. But, sometimes, many countries in the international community will instead recognize a government in exile for a long time.

A common pattern is for countries to avoid taking a position, while a coup is followed by a national referendum legitimatizing a new regime that was permitted to take place by the coup leaders, followed by recognition of the new regime if the referendum is free, is fair, and passes.

Some countries at the UN are not recognized as legitimate regimes by all UN members and the UN doesn't decide which regime is or is not legitimate for the most part.


The Q is somewhat broad (and thus ambiguous). Generally speaking, international law has little to say about what goes on inside a country except in extreme circumstances like crimes against humanity etc. Internal forces staging a coup doesn't rise to that level, unless (as it sometimes happens) in the aftermath they commit mass political imprisonments, a campaign of torture against opponents etc.

On the other hand, international law has more to say about what goes on in international relations between countries. This is still somewhat disputed as settled law becauses the big powers weren't too keen on having such matters brought before a court, but e.g in the Nicaragua case (that the US boycotted), the ICJ:

Decides that the United States of America, by training, arming, equipping, financing and supplying the contra forces or otherwise encouraging, supporting and aiding military and paramilitary activities in and against Nicaragua, has acted, against the Republic of Nicaragua, in breach of its obligation under customary international law not to intervene in the affairs of another State;

So if staging a coup entails something like a foreign power arming guerilla forces that can be a breach of international law. (Not all coups need be like this though, e.g. if the coup is staged by the state's own armed forces.)

As for external recognition in the aftermath, that's essentially a "political question", so not typically subject to judicial review, neither internationally nor in most countries own legal system.


The vast majority of coups do not happen in democracies.

While it is not uncommon for a coup just to replace one authoritarian government by another, some of them open path to democracy. It may be no legal rules to remove the rogue authoritarian government from power or they may be intentionally twisted to make them impossible to follow. The usual mechanism of democracy, if ever existed, may already be dismantled by authoritarian leadership.

A "democratic coup" should immediately organize open elections and referendum if necessary. If these are really seen by the world as free and fair (international observers, etc), normally the recognition follows. This is normally not called a "coup", this is called "the government has been overturned by the mass protests". But some unfriendly propaganda may call this a coup anyway as the definitions seem foggy.

Hence there is no universal rule that each coup is deeply illegal, will never be recognized or that it gives automatic permission for any other country to come with the own army there, using the coup as a pretext to take away whatever they want. Also the answer assumes the seizure of power happening in the country scale. I cannot "seize" my own backyard and then arrange a single voter referendum to declare the independence first and then to hand it to the foreign country of my choice.


Can´t give any direct references to any law, but point 3 from this sorce should be the closest to an answer. Also this paper seems also to be dealing with this topic.

So here a quote of the relevant part from the first sorce.

Can a coup be made according to international law?

The problem to think about in law is Whether a coup is legal or not. Or is there an explanation that cannot do or cannot do The coup itself would destroy the rule of law and democracy. It also has an impact on the status of the former government that is legitimate as well. This problem can be divided into two levels. Is the level of internal law within the context of constitutional law and criminal law (eg treason Also known as treason) 6 and at the level of international law But this article will only limit the issues relating to international law.

international law It does not prohibit the state from taking a coup. Although many democratic countries condemn a coup. The reason for not banning is because international law sees that People of any country have the right to choose a regime that is considered domestic affairs. 7.

While Professor Hans Kelsen * describes the coup by setting the principle that There are three components of statehood under international law: territory, citizenship and state power, which are passed on by the government. And at the same time, the executors have successfully established effective control (efficacy) over land or citizens. It is a coup government used state power to 8 Kelsen, called the coup a success as -creating Fact Law from 9.

Kelsen’s focus on the element of “effective control” or “efficacy” is so much less of a mention of legitimacy or legality. Those that are illegal may have a valid (valid) or even legal effect as well. And revolutionary acts and coups are examples of the exceptions that “Dharma is not born of unrighteousness” (ex injuria jus non oritur) 10It is likely that Kelsen, as an international lawyer, viewed the state as a member of the international community. The state of existence of the state has to be continually and continuously changing Could be called a master “Continuity of state” The state of the state cannot be terminated by a coup. As for the government that gained the power to rule the country in a coup, will it be accepted by the international community? It is another issue which is a government certification issue.

For that country The Supreme Court has always confirmed that The coup, which successfully seized power from the old government, was considered the “new government” or “Lord Athipat”, who used the state power 11 on the issue that How should the court react to the “order” of the junta? Or if the court has to decide on the legal issue of a coup In this regard, one of the scholars suggested that The court has only two options: Surrender to being part of a coup or constitutionality Another option is The court had to use moral courage to deny the legal status of the junt 12.

  • Would you mind editing the relevant information from those sources into your answer? As it stands, this is a link-only answer, and those are discouraged here.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Jul 27, 2022 at 19:17
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    @F1Krazy OK I´ve quoted the relevant part.
    – convert
    Commented Jul 27, 2022 at 19:19
  • Most of the coups do not happen in democracies so there is often nothing to destroy.
    – Stančikas
    Commented Jul 29, 2022 at 8:03
  • @Stančikas Depends on your understanding of democracy, could give you some examples where democratic government was overthrown in a coup.
    – convert
    Commented Jul 29, 2022 at 11:02

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