Skip to main content

Photo: “Polish flag with coat of arms“, by Orem licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0. Hue modified from the original.

Dzięgielewska, Aleksandra. “A Mimicry of International Law Compliance: How the Abusive Interpretation of International Norms Serves Poland’s Illiberal Regime.” Chicago Journal of International Law 23, no. 1 (2022): 6.


In recent years, the instrumental use of international norms to entrench abusive rule has been a strategy increasingly utilized by democratically regressing European states. This pattern is evident in Poland in particular, where captured democratic institutions have attempted to legitimize unconstitutional reforms of the justice system by asserting their consistency with international law. To provide an insight into this illiberal strategy, this Essay uses the concept of mimicry as a framework to study recent judgments by the Polish Constitutional Tribunal. This Essay argues that the Polish Constitutional Tribunal feigns legal compliance by abusively interpreting well-established concepts of international law. The Essay concludes by outlining the role that international law machinery can play in combating mimicry on the national level. Examining recent decisions of the European Court of Justice that have pushed back against the Polish decline, it explores what solutions may be feasible within the European Union framework, maintaining European institutions’ capacity to root out abuses of international law.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.