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Political Institutions and Human Rights: Why Dictatorships Enter into the United Nations Convention Against Torture

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  • Vreeland, James Raymond

Abstract

This article addresses a puzzle: dictatorships that practice torture are more likely to accede to the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT) than dictatorships that do not practice torture. I argue the reason has to do with the logic of torture. Torture is more likely to occur where power is shared. In one-party or no-party dictatorships, few individuals defect against the regime. Consequently, less torture occurs. But dictatorships are protorture regimes; they have little interest in making gestures against torture, such as signing the CAT. There is more torture where power is shared, such as where dictatorships allow multiple political parties. Alternative political points of view are endorsed, but some individuals go too far. More acts of defection against the regime occur, and torture rates are higher. Because political parties exert some power, however, they pressure the regime to make concessions. One small concession is acceding to the CAT.For detailed suggestions, I thank Rodwan Abouharb, Emanuel Adler, Lawrence Broz, Jos Cheibub, David Cingranelli, Jennifer Gandhi, Geoff Garrett, Valerie Frey, Stephan Haggard, Oona Hathaway, Darren Hawkins, Stathis Kalyvas, Judith Kelley, Paul Lagunes, Jeffrey Lewis, Ellen Lust-Okar, Nikolay Marinov, Lisa Martin, Covadonga Meseguer, Layna Mosley, Louis Pauly, Daniel Posner, Kal Raustiala, Dan Reiter, Darius Rejali, Ronald Rogowski, Peter Rosendorff, Mike Tomz, Jana Von Stein, Christine Wotipka, and especially the two anonymous reviewers. I am also grateful for comments from participants at the Kellogg Institute International Political Economy Seminar at Notre Dame; the UCLA International Institute Global Fellows Seminar; the University of Southern California Center for International Studies Workshop; the UCSD Project on International Affairs Seminar; and the Emory University Globalization, Institutions, and Conflict Seminar. For support, I thank the UCLA International Institute, the ETH Zurich, and the University of Puerto Rico, R o Piedras.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal International Organization.

Volume (Year): 62 (2008)
Issue (Month): 01 (January)
Pages: 65-101

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Handle: RePEc:cup:intorg:v:62:y:2008:i:01:p:65-101_08

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Cited by:
  1. Kristian Skrede Gleditsch & Simon Hug & Livia Isabella Schubiger & Julian Wucherpfennig, 2011. "International Conventions and Non-State Actors: Selection, Signaling, and Reputation Effects," HiCN Working Papers 108, Households in Conflict Network.
  2. Simon Hug & Richard Lukács, 2014. "Preferences or blocs? Voting in the United Nations Human Rights Council," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 9(1), pages 83-106, March.
  3. Bernhard Boockmann & Axel Dreher, 2011. "Do human rights offenders oppose human rights resolutions in the United Nations?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 146(3), pages 443-467, March.
  4. Axel Dreher & Martin Gassebner & Lars-H. R. Siemers, 2010. "Globalization, Economic Freedom and Human Rights," CESifo Working Paper Series 3228, CESifo Group Munich.
  5. Christian Bjørnskov & Jacob Mchangama, 2013. "Do Social Rights Affect Social Outcomes?," Economics Working Papers 2013-18, School of Economics and Management, University of Aarhus.
  6. Cho, Seo-young & Vadlamannati, Krishna Chaitanya, 2010. "Compliance for big brothers: An empirical analysis on the impact of the anti-trafficking protocol," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 118, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
  7. Songying Fang & Erica Owen, 2011. "International institutions and credible commitment of non-democracies," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 6(2), pages 141-162, July.
  8. Gabriele Spilker & Tobias Böhmelt, 2013. "The impact of preferential trade agreements on governmental repression revisited," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 8(3), pages 343-361, September.
  9. Cho, Seo-young & Vadlamannati, Krishna Chaitanya, 2010. "Compliance for big brothers: An empirical analysis on the impact of the anti-trafficking protocol," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 118, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
  10. Cho, Seo-Young & Vadlamannati, Krishna Chaitanya, 2012. "Compliance with the Anti-trafficking Protocol," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 249-265.

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