Do Norms Reduce Torture?

Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 38

Posted: 3 Sep 2008 Last revised: 24 Apr 2010

See all articles by Michael J. Gilligan

Michael J. Gilligan

New York University - Department of Politics

Nathaniel H. Nesbitt

University of Minnesota Law School

Date Written: August 29, 2008

Abstract

One of the most important developments in international political and legal theory over the last two decades has been the assertion that norms affect state behavior. Scholars have claimed that states are constrained by norms of appropriate behavior and furthermore that norms actually change (reconstitute) states' understandings of their interests thereby leading states to adapt their behavior in accordance with these new understandings. We test the proposition that norms alter state behavior with respect to the expanding international norm against torture from 1985 through 2003. Unfortunately, we find no evidence that the spreading of the international norm against torture, measured by the percentage of countries in the world that have acceded to the UN Convention Against Torture, has lead to any reduction in torture according to a variety of measures.

Keywords: human rights, torture, norms

Suggested Citation

Gilligan, Michael J. and Nesbitt, Nathaniel H., Do Norms Reduce Torture? (August 29, 2008). Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 38. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1260804

Michael J. Gilligan (Contact Author)

New York University - Department of Politics ( email )

19 West 4th Street
New York, NY 10012
United States

Nathaniel H. Nesbitt

University of Minnesota Law School ( email )

229 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

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