Treaties, Tenure, and Torture: The Conflicting Domestic Effects of International Law

  • Citation: Ritter, Emily and Courtenay R. Conrad. “Treaties, Tenure, and Torture: The Conflicting Domestic Effects of International Law.” 2013. The Journal of Politics 75 (2): 397-409.
    • Topics:
    • Human Rights
    • Keywords:
    • international human rights treaties (IHRT)
    • domestic politics
    • citizens
    • repression

International human rights treaties are argued to increase both the likelihood of domestic mobilized dissent and judicial constraint. These pressures pull leaders in conflicting directions: mobilized challenges undermine a leader’s position in power, increasing incentives to repress; courts raise the probability of litigation, decreasing incentives to repress. We argue authorities balance these pressures based on their job security. Politically insecure leaders, desperate to retain power, repress to control the destabilizing effects of dissent. Secure leaders are less likely to fall to citizen pressures, but the probability of facing an effective judiciary weighs heavily in their expected costs. Consequently, they repress less to avoid litigation. We find empirical support for the implications of our formal theory using data on commitment to the UN Convention Against Torture. Treaties have no effect on repression in states with insecure leaders but have a positive effect on rights protection in states headed by secure leaders.

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