Emergency and Escape: Explaining Derogation from Human Rights Treaties
Emilie Marie Hafner-Burton
University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IRPS)
Laurence R. Helfer
Duke University School of Law
Christopher J. Fariss
Pennsylvania State University
August 19, 2011
International Organization, Vol. 65, p. 673, Fall 2011
Several prominent human rights treaties attempt to minimize violations during emergencies by authorizing states to “derogate” - that is, to suspend certain civil and political liberties - in response to crises. The drafters of these treaties envisioned that international restrictions on derogations and international notification and monitoring mechanisms would limit rights suspensions during emergencies. This article analyzes the behavior of derogating countries using new global datasets of derogations and states of emergency from 1976 to 2007. We argue that derogations are a rational response to domestic political uncertainty. They enable governments facing serious threats to buy time and legal breathing space from voters, courts, and interest groups to confront crises while signaling to these audiences that rights deviations are temporary and lawful. Our findings have implications for the studies of treaty design and flexibility mechanisms and compliance with international human rights agreements.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 35
Keywords: International Law, Human Rights, Treaties, Flexibility, Derogation, Compliance, Emergencies, Crises, ICCPR
Date posted: June 9, 2010 ; Last revised: February 20, 2015
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