Skip navigation
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title: International human rights and the domestic politics of law and order
Authors: Thoms, Oskar N.T.
Advisors: Moravcsik, Andrew M
Contributors: Politics Department
Keywords: human rights
judicial enforcement
law and order
physical integrity
political mobilization
public insecurity
Subjects: International relations
Political science
International law
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Scholarship has uncovered conditional impacts of human rights treaties, attributing improvements to democratic institutions, domestic political mobilization and judicial enforcement of legal obligations, but existing theories do not explain the persistence of many physical integrity violations resulting from routine law enforcement in democracies after they ratified treaties. This dissertation examines how the politics of law and order influence key mechanisms of human rights change. I argue that public insecurity due to high levels of crime limits political mobilization for human rights by strengthening public support for heavy-handed policing, putting constraints on reforms. Further, while judicial institutions are key to protecting physical integrity, public insecurity also makes courts less likely to hold police legally accountable for violations. As a result, these mechanisms of human rights change are less effective in contexts of public insecurity, and criminals and marginalized groups believed to produce criminality benefit less than political dissidents. New democracies, which have incentives to quickly ratify human rights treaties to strengthen their weak or untested domestic judicial institutions, are particularly likely to experience these dynamics because they are prone to public insecurity, and authoritarian legacies make police more likely to respond with violence. This theory is supported by case studies of Brazil, South Africa and Mexico, and by cross-national statistical studies. Analyses of commitments to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) find that new democracies ratify sooner and at higher rates than nondemocracies and established democracies, and commitments are unrelated to judicial strength and recent human rights practices. Analyses of physical integrity practices find that public insecurity contributes to violations, particularly in new democracies. Judicial strength is associated with less violations but this effect decreases with increasing public insecurity, regardless of membership in the treaty. Analyses of torture allegations find support for the claim that human rights change unevenly benefits different societal sectors. CAT commitments are associated with improvements for dissidents and more torture of criminals and marginalized individuals in new democracies. In a context of increased public insecurity, judicial enforcement of the CAT is limited to dissidents.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Politics

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat 
Thoms_princeton_0181D_12267.pdf1.46 MBAdobe PDFView/Download

Items in Dataspace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.