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Are New Democracies Better Human Rights Compliers?

Sharanbir Grewal

Georgetown University

Erik Voeten

Georgetown University - Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS)

December 10, 2012

Recent literature suggests that new democracies are more likely than advanced liberal democracies to make binding commitments to international human rights institutions. Are new democracies also better at following through on these commitments? Put differently: does their greater willingness to join international institutions reflect a credible commitment to human rights reform or is it just ‘cheap talk?’ This research note analyzes this question using a new dataset of over 1000 leading European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) cases. Since new democracies face judgments that are more difficult to implement than mature democracies, we employ a genetic matching algorithm to balance the dataset. After controlling for bureaucratic and legal capacity, new democracies do implement similar ECtHR judgments on average more quickly than mature democracies but this effect disappears the longer a judgment remains pending. The incentives new democracies have to uphold credible commitments are thus not always sufficient to overcome more structural impediments to human rights reform.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 35

Keywords: human rights, international law, international courts, European Courts of Human Rights, compliance

JEL Classification: K33

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Date posted: December 11, 2012  

Suggested Citation

Grewal, Sharanbir and Voeten, Erik, Are New Democracies Better Human Rights Compliers? (December 10, 2012). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2187428 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2187428

Contact Information

Sharanbir Grewal
Georgetown University ( email )
Washington, DC 20057
United States
Erik Voeten (Contact Author)
Georgetown University - Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS) ( email )
Washington, DC 20057
United States
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References:  12
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