International Human Rights Law and the Politics of Legitimation: Repressive States and Human Rights Treaties
International Sociology, January 2008, Vol. 23(1): 115-141
27 Pages Posted: 6 Dec 2015
Date Written: January 1, 2008
This study explores, with quantitative data analyses, why nation-states with very negative human rights records tend to sign and ratify human rights treaties at rates similar to those of states with positive records. The study’s core arguments are (1) that the deepening international human rights regime creates opportunities for rights-violating governments to display low-cost legitimating commitments to world norms, leading them to ratify human rights treaties without the capacity or willingness to comply with the provisions; and (2) that among repressive regimes, autonomous ones that are less constrained by domestic forces are more likely to ratify human rights treaties as symbolic commitment, because these sovereigns are free to entertain high levels of decoupling between policy and practice, while constrained governments are more reluctant to incite domestic (and foreign) oppositions and interest groups. The combined outcome is that repressive states ratify human rights treaties at least as frequently as non-repressive ones – particularly those repressive states that have greater autonomy. Our cross-national time-series analyses provide supportive evidence for these arguments.
Keywords: human rights, international treaty, world society
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