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Compliance with human rights norms: International efforts to end torture

Katherine H Brannum, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This study of state compliance with international norms against torture focuses on the period 1979-1993. Configurations of factors are compared using the Qualitative Comparative Approach. The first part of the study is a cross-national analysis of government compliance in 1993. To elucidate the circumstances under which states that are democracies or are in transition to democracy may improve their records of compliance with norms against torture, the second part of this study presents the results of a comparison of a group of such states where the governments improved compliance and a group of states where the governments continued to torture at high levels. This study shows that the record of compliance with international norms against torture in 1993 is a weak one. Total compliance was rarely achieved and difficult to maintain. The states that improved from the worst levels were still in 1993 torturing at middle levels. Both the cross-national study and the analysis of selected governments' behavior from 1979 to 1993, present evidence of the importance of type of political regime. This study demonstrates that in many cases the presence or absence of armed conflict distinguishes democracies or states in transition that complied from those that did not. However, while there are clear patterns among some states that torture, these important factors do not alone distinguish governments that torture from those that do not. They are clearly not sufficient to explain government behavior. The second part of this study, looking at behavior over time, shows that membership in any of the torture regimes has not had any serious impact on government behavior. An analysis of the comparison also confirms and further develops the importance of armed conflict as a domestic factor and indicates the circumstances under which the presence of minor armed conflict may be overcome. This study also highlights the importance of foreign pressure and the more limited circumstances under which NGOs with transnational links may have been able to effect government practice.

Subject Area

International law|International relations

Recommended Citation

Brannum, Katherine H, "Compliance with human rights norms: International efforts to end torture" (1998). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9909150.