Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

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

  • James Raymond Vreeland (a1)

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, José 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, Río Piedras.

Hide All
Abouharb, M. Rodwan, and David L. Cingranelli. 2006. The Human Rights Effects of World Bank Structural Adjustment, 1981–2000. International Studies Quarterly 50 (2):23362.

Bearce, David H., and Stacy Bondanella. 2007. Intergovernmental Organizations, Socialization, and Member-State Interest Convergence. International Organization 61 (4):70333.

Beck, Nathaniel, Jonathan N. Katz, and Richard Tucker. 1998. Taking Time Seriously: Time-Series-Cross-Section Analysis with a Binary Dependent Variable. American Journal of Political Science 42 (4):126088.

Beitz, Charles R. 2001. Human Rights as a Common Concern. American Political Science Review 95 (2):26982.

Chamberlain, Gary. 1980. Analysis of Covariance with Qualitative Data. Review of Economic Studies 47 (1):22538.

Cingranelli, David L., and David L. Richards. 1999. Measuring the Level, Pattern, and Sequence of Government Respect for Physical Integrity Rights. International Studies Quarterly 43 (2):40717.

Dai, Xinyuan. 2005. Why Comply? The Domestic Constituency Mechanism. International Organization 59 (2):36398.

Davenport, Christian. 2007. State Repression and the Tyrannical Peace. Journal of Peace Research 44 (4):485504.

Downs, George W., David M. Rocke, and Peter N. Barsoom. 1996. Is the Good News About Compliance Good News About Cooperation? International Organization 50 (3):379406.

Elkins, Zachary, and Beth A. Simmons. 2005. On Waves, Clusters and Diffusion: A Conceptual Framework. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 598 (March):3351.

Fein, Helen. 1995. More Murder in the Middle: Life-Integrity Violations and Democracy in the World, 1987. Human Rights Quarterly 17 (1):17091.

Finnemore, Martha, and Kathryn Sikkink. 1998. International Norm Dynamics and Political Change. International Organization 52 (4):887917.

Gandhi, Jennifer, and Adam Przeworski. 2006a. Cooperation, Cooptation, and Rebellion Under Dictatorships. Economics and Politics 18 (1):126.

Goodliffe, Jay, and Darren G. Hawkins. 2006. Explaining Commitment: States and the Convention Against Torture. Journal of Politics 68 (2):35871.

Green, Donald P., Soo Yeon Kim, and David H. Yoon. 2001. Dirty Pool. International Organization 55 (2):44168.

Hafner-Burton, Emilie Marie. 2005. Trading Human Rights: How Preferential Trade Agreements Influence Government Repression. International Organization 59 (3):593629.

Hafner-Burton, Emilie Marie, and Kiyoteru Tsutsui. 2005. Human Rights in a Globalizing World: The Paradox of Empty Promises. American Journal of Sociology 110 (5):1373411.

Hafner-Burton, Emilie Marie, and Kiyoteru Tsutsui. 2007. Justice Lost! The Failure of International Human Rights Law to Matter Where Needed Most. Journal of Peace Research 44 (4):40725.

Hathaway, Oona A. 2002. Do Human Rights Treaties Make a Difference? The Yale Law Journal 111 (8):19352042.

Hathaway, Oona A. 2007. Why Do Countries Commit to Human Rights Treaties? Journal of Conflict Resolution 51:588621.

Henisz, Witold J., Bennet A. Zelner, and Mauro F. Guillén. 2005. The Worldwide Diffusion of Market-oriented Infrastructure Reform, 1977–1999. American Sociological Review 70 (6):87197.

Johnston, Alastair Iain. 2001. Treating International Institutions as Social Environments. International Studies Quarterly 45 (4):487515.

King, Gary, Michael Tomz, and Jason Wittenberg. 2000. Making the Most of Statistical Analyses: Improving Interpretation and Presentation. American Journal of Political Science 44 (2):34761.

Koremenos, Barbara. 2005. Contracting Around International Uncertainty. American Political Science Review 99 (4):54965.

Landman, Todd. 2002. Comparative Politics and Human Rights. Human Rights Quarterly 24 (4):890923.

Landman, Todd. 2005b. Review Article: The Political Science of Human Rights. British Journal of Political Science 35 (3):54972.

Mansfield, Edward D., Helen V. Milner, and B. Peter Rosendorff. 2002. Why Democracies Cooperate More: Electoral Control and International Trade Agreements. International Organization 56 (3):477513.

Meseguer, Covadonga. 2006. Learning and Economic Policy Choices. European Journal of Political Economy 22 (1):15678.

Moravcsik, Andrew. 2000. The Origins of Human Rights Regimes: Democratic Delegation in Postwar Europe. International Organization 54 (2):21752.

Neumayer, Eric. 2005. Do International Human Rights Treaties Improve Respect for Human Rights? Journal of Conflict Resolution 49 (6):92553.

Poe, Steven C., C. Neal Tate, and Linda Camp Keith. 1999. Repression of the Human Right to Personal Integrity Revisited: A Global Cross-National Study Covering the Years 1976–1993. International Studies Quarterly 43 (2):291314.

Raustiala, Kal. 2003. Rethinking the Sovereignty Debate in International Economic Law. Journal of International Economic Law 6 (4):84178.

Regan, Patrick, and Errol Henderson. 2002. Democracy, Threats and Political Repression in Developing Countries: Are Democracies Internally Less Violent? Third World Quarterly 23 (1):11936.

Simmons, Beth A., Frank Dobbin, and Geoffrey Garrett. 2006. Introduction: The International Diffusion of Liberalism. International Organization 60 (4):781810.

Sobek, David, M. Rodwan Abouharb, and Christopher G. Ingram. 2006. The Human Rights Peace: How the Respect for Human Rights at Home Leads to Peace Abroad. Journal of Politics 68 (3):51929.

Wantchekon, Leonard, and Andrew Healy. 1999. The “Game” of Torture. Journal of Conflict Resolution 43 (5):596609.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

International Organization
  • ISSN: 0020-8183
  • EISSN: 1531-5088
  • URL: /core/journals/international-organization
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 39
Total number of PDF views: 539 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 1427 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 17th October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.