Best Evidence: The Role of Information in Domestic Judicial Enforcement of International Human Rights Agreements

46 Pages Posted: 3 Jul 2011 Last revised: 30 Jan 2015

See all articles by Yonatan Lupu

Yonatan Lupu

George Washington University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: April 8, 2013

Abstract

Independent domestic courts play important roles in enforcing international human rights agreements, thereby providing a mechanism by which international institutions can affect government policy. Yet this enforcement power is constrained not only by independence but also by the courts' ability to overcome information problems. Domestic courts' enforcement power depends on information in two ways: the costs of producing legally admissible evidence of abuses and the applicable legal standards of proof. When countries ratify international agreements, judicial enforcement can improve government practices when evidence-production costs and standards of proof are low, but not otherwise. With respect to personal integrity rights violations, evidence is especially difficult to obtain, and standards of proof are high, meaning that the courts will not be able to constrain government practices. By contrast, evidence-production costs and standards of proof are lower for other civil rights violations, so courts will be able to prosecute offenders and bring governments into line with their international commitments. Consistent with this theory, I find that commitments to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) have significantly improved governments' respect for the freedoms of speech, association, assembly and religion. With respect to personal integrity rights, however, I find that commitments to the ICCPR have not improved government practices.

Keywords: International Law, Human Rights, Courts, Evidence, Causal Inference, Matching

Suggested Citation

Lupu, Yonatan, Best Evidence: The Role of Information in Domestic Judicial Enforcement of International Human Rights Agreements (April 8, 2013). International Organization, Vol. 67, No. 3 (2013), pp. 469-503. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1876728 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1876728

Yonatan Lupu (Contact Author)

George Washington University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Washington, DC 20052
United States

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