Getting away with it? Kleptocracy, atrocities, and the morality of autocratic exile

Shmuel Nili*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Foreign exile has often served as an important solution to high-stakes standoffs between opposition forces and beleaguered autocrats. I assess the moral status of autocratic exile, by focusing on the tension between exile's contribution to domestic peace and its threat to global deterrence against autocracy. I begin by contending that transitioning societies normally have the moral prerogative of accepting an exile arrangement for their autocrat, even though such an arrangement harms global deterrence against autocracy. I then suggest that, in the absence of clear evidence of majority opposition to an exile arrangement within the transitioning society, foreign countries who have been entangled in an autocrat's rule will normally have a decisive duty to facilitate his exile, despite exile's repercussions for global deterrence. I explain why such foreign entanglement, particularly on the part of affluent Western democracies, is inevitable in the case of kleptocrats. But I also show that the entanglement argument for exile extends even to murderous autocrats, whose crimes fall under the purview of the International Criminal Court. Countries entangled in a murderous autocrat's rule ought to prioritize their particular duties toward his victims over their general moral reasons to advance international criminal justice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInternational Theory
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 17 2023


  • Asylum for dictators
  • complicity
  • corruption
  • global justice
  • hostage crises
  • International Criminal Court
  • transitional justice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Law


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