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Robert G. Moser, Chair BAT 2.116, Mailcode A1800, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-5121

Emily Ritter: "Tenure, Treaties, and Torture: The Conflicting Domestic Effects of International Law"

Mon, March 19, 2012 • 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM • BAT 5.108

Emily Ritter, University of Alabama

Talk title: Tenure, Treaties, and Torture: The Conflicting Domestic Effects of International Law

Talk summary: International human rights treaties are argued to increase the likelihood of popular mobilization and domestic judicial effectiveness. These augmented pressures pull leaders in conflicting directions: mobilization undermines leaders’ position in power, increasing incentives to repress; effective courts raise the probability of litigation, decreasing incentives to repress. We argue authorities balance these pressures based on their job security. Politically insecure leaders, desperate to retain power, repress to control the destabilizing effects of mobilization. Secure leaders are less likely to fall to citizen pressures, and the probability of facing an effective judiciary weighs heavily in their expected costs. Consequently, they repress less to avoid litigation. We find empirical support for the implications of our formal theory using data on commitment to the Convention Against Torture. Treaties have no effect on repression in states with insecure leaders but have a positive effect on rights protection in states headed by secure leaders.


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