Compliance and HRTs

Why do states comply with international human rights tribunals (HRTs)?  My book, Domestic Politics and International Human Rights Tribunals: The Problem of Compliance, which I published with Cambridge University Press in 2014 as part of the Cambridge Studies in International and Comparative Law series, seeks to answer this question.  This book examines the variety of ways in which states respond to the rulings of human rights tribunals in Europe and the Americas.  This research suggests that domestic actors–executives, judges and the political opposition–use international human rights tribunals’ rulings to advance their domestic policy agendas and signal a commitment to human rights.  The perceived legitimacy of the tribunals and the precision of their rulings makes compliance with the tribunals’ mandates a powerful domestic policy tool.  The book tests this argument through a combination of statistical analyses of a new, hand-coded dataset on compliance with the tribunals’ rulings; case studies from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Italy, Russia and the United Kingdom; interviews with lawyers and activists at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights and the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights; and archival research.

In addition to the book, I published a series of articles about compliance with international human rights tribunals.  The first article, “The Domestic Mechanisms of Compliance with International Law:  Case Studies from the Inter-American Human Rights System” traces the compliance process with cases concerning the accountability of human rights perpetrators in Argentina, Colombia and Brazil and focuses on the relationship between the executive, legislators and judges with respect to compliance.  This article appeared Human Rights Quarterly‘s November 2012 issue (Vol. 34, No. 4, pgs. 959-985).

A second article, “Implementing International Human Rights Law at Home: Domestic Politics and the European Court of Human Rights” uses case studies from the U.K. and Russia to illustrate two current trends in compliance with regional human rights tribunals:  begrudging and à la carte compliance, respectively.  This article was published in Human Rights Review (Vol. 13, No. 3, pgs. 279-301).  You can view the article here.

A third article, “The Power of Human Rights Tribunals:  Compliance with the European Court of Human Rights and Domestic Policy Change,” takes a broad look at compliance and uses my new compliance data to identify patterns of compliance with the European Court of human Rights.   This article was published in The European Journal of International Relations (Vol. 20, No. 4, pgs. 1100-1123).  An earlier version of this piece won the International Studies Association’s Stephen C. Poe Graduate Student Paper Award in Human Rights.

In addition to these articles, my research on measuring compliance with human rights tribunals has been published in the Journal of Human Rights Practice (“Rethinking Compliance: The Challenges and Prospects of Measuring Compliance with Human Rights Tribunals”) and the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy’s Measurement and Human Rights. You can also find related policy memos on The Monkey Cage and e-IR, among other outlets.

My research on compliance with human rights tribunals contributes to broader debates about the role of international law in domestic politics and the politics of human rights.  It also provides policy-relevant research on measuring human rights outcomes and the relationship between international human rights institutions and the domestic protection of human rights.  My research on compliance with HRTs has been supported by Harvard University, the National Science Foundation, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Utrecht University.

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