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When Is the Pen Truly Mighty? Regime Type and the Efficacy of Naming and Shaming in Curbing Human Rights Abuses


Does naming and shaming states affect respect for human rights in those states? This article argues that incentives to change repressive behaviour when facing international condemnation vary across regime types. In democracies and hybrid regimes – which combine democratic and authoritarian elements – opposition parties and relatively free presses paradoxically make rulers less likely to change behaviour when facing international criticism. In contrast, autocracies, which lack these domestic sources of information on abuses, are more sensitive to international shaming. Using data on naming and shaming taken from Western press reports and Amnesty International, the authors demonstrate that naming and shaming is associated with improved human rights outcomes in autocracies, but with either no effect or a worsening of outcomes in democracies and hybrid regimes.

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Department of Government, College of William & Mary (email:; and Department of Political Science, University of Toronto (email: The authors wish to thank Marie Chalkley and Rachel Rawana for research assistance, and also Idean Salehyan, Matthew Krain, panel attendees at the International Studies Association, and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier versions of the article. Replication data for this article can be accessed at

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British Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 0007-1234
  • EISSN: 1469-2112
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-political-science
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