Qualified Ratification: Explaining Reservations to International Human Rights Treaties
44 Pages Posted: 22 Oct 2005 Last revised: 23 Feb 2015
Date Written: July 1, 2006
The legitimacy and role of reservations to international human rights treaties is a heavily contested issue. From one perspective, reservations, understandings and declarations (RUDs) are a legitimate means to account for diversity across countries and are used predominantly by those countries that take human rights seriously. From an alternative perspective, RUDs are regrettable at best, and detrimental to the international human rights regime at worst. One can derive testable hypotheses from both perspectives with regard to which countries can be expected to set up a higher number of RUDs. Specifically, the first account predicts that liberal democracies set up more RUDs than other countries, whereas the competing account holds the opposite, possibly after distinguishing among the group of liberal democracies. This article puts these hypotheses to an empirical test with respect to six core international human rights treaties. The results suggest that the revealed RUD behavior of state parties to the treaties looked at is strongly in line with the first perspective since liberal democracies have more, not fewer RUDs than other countries.
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