Political Institutions, Plausible Deniability, and the Decision to Hide Torture

57 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2014 Last revised: 19 Aug 2014

See all articles by Courtenay Conrad

Courtenay Conrad

Department of Political Science, University of California, Merced

Daniel W. Hill

University of Georgia - Department of International Affairs

Will H. Moore

Florida State University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: July 9, 2014

Abstract

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

Conrad, Courtenay and Hill, Daniel W. and Moore, Will H., Political Institutions, Plausible Deniability, and the Decision to Hide Torture (July 9, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2481762 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2481762

Courtenay Conrad

Department of Political Science, University of California, Merced ( email )

5200 N. Lake Road
Merced, CA 95344
United States

Daniel W. Hill

University of Georgia - Department of International Affairs ( email )

Athens, GA 30602
United States

Will H. Moore (Contact Author)

Florida State University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Talahasse, FL 30306
United States
850-644-6924 (Phone)

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