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

See all articles by Emilie Marie Hafner-Burton

Emilie Marie Hafner-Burton

UCSD School of Global Policy and Strategy

Kiyoteru Tsutsui

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

John W. Meyer

Stanford University - Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies

Date Written: January 1, 2008

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Hafner-Burton, Emilie Marie and Tsutsui, Kiyoteru and Meyer, John W., International Human Rights Law and the Politics of Legitimation: Repressive States and Human Rights Treaties (January 1, 2008). International Sociology, January 2008, Vol. 23(1): 115-141. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2698270

Emilie Marie Hafner-Burton (Contact Author)

UCSD School of Global Policy and Strategy ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0519
United States

HOME PAGE: http://gps.ucsd.edu/ehafner/

Kiyoteru Tsutsui

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ( email )

500 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

John W. Meyer

Stanford University - Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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