Protecting Rights Through Violating Them: Law Enforcement and Doubts About Democracy in India

44 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2012 Last revised: 3 Sep 2012

Date Written: August 22, 2012

Abstract

This paper examines the diffusion of human rights norms among domestic state actors after a state has formally endorsed these norms, with a focus on the right to be free from torture. The findings reveal the ways in which lack of trust in legal and political processes in India contributes to Indian law enforcement officers’ resistance to human rights that protect suspects from torture. I argue that flaws in the legal and political context inform the way these officers interpret these rights as well as the normative arguments that are available to them to justify violations. The findings suggest that it is not only formal political structures and national “culture” that inform norm diffusion, as other scholars have argued. Nonformal aspects of the political context and state actors’ perceptions of this context can matter as well for whether and how norms diffuse after formal state endorsement has occurred. The paper is based on twelve months of in-depth fieldwork in India with law enforcement officers who are participating in human rights education.

Keywords: human rights, norm diffusion, torture, constructivist theory

Suggested Citation

Wahl, Rachel, Protecting Rights Through Violating Them: Law Enforcement and Doubts About Democracy in India (August 22, 2012). APSA 2012 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2108883

Rachel Wahl (Contact Author)

New York University ( email )

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