Political Institutions, Plausible Deniability, and the Decision to Hide Torture
57 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2014 Last revised: 19 Aug 2014
Date Written: July 9, 2014
To increase plausible deniability about torture, governments have increasingly turned to stealth techniques that do not scar the victim’s body. This study argues that democratic institutions provide leaders with different incentives with regard to the decision to hide torture. Because torture is often targeted at minorities, institutions that protect the majority — like contested elections — do not encourage leaders to prioritize plausible deniability. As such, states with elections engage in more scarring torture. Other institutions — like domestic courts — were created to protect minority rights. Leaders in states with powerful courts prefer plausible deniability of rights violations and consequently demonstrate higher levels of stealth torture. We find support for our hypotheses using new data from the Ill-Treatment and Torture (ITT) Data Collection Project that distinguish between Amnesty International (AI) allegations of scarring and stealth torture from 1995 to 2005.
Keywords: torture, democracy, autocracy, ill treatment
JEL Classification: D74, C34
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation