Individuals v. States

Wade Cole sent me an excellent paper entitled:  “Individuals v. States:  An Analysis of Human Rights Committee Rulings, 1979-2007.”

The paper is about complaints issued to the Human Rights Committee (HRC) under the First Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (a key human rights treaty).  Specifically, he analyzes which countries are found to be “violators” and which tend to be exonerated… both as a function of country-level characteristics and also characteristics of the complaints themselves.

Like the International Criminal Court  (ICC), the HRC is an international forum… in this case, where individuals can lodge complaints against states for a wide range of human rights violations.  These types of international institutions are a great topic to study… and Wade shows the extent to which these kinds of institutions are used — and how much they actually rule against states.

Wade also does a great job of characterizing the nature of the Human Rights regime.  It is clear that the HRC is rather toothless… it issues non-binding “views” — they can’t even call them “rulings”, as that might encroach on state sovereignty.  But, Wade also give a sense of the potential cultural/symbolic/normative import of these (and other) international institutions — which both world society research as well as constructivists in Poli Sci have emphasized.

The main country-level findings:  Rich (i.e., mainly Western) countries are more likely to be “exonerated” by the HRC and less likely to be viewed as a violator.  That isn’t shocking, but important to know (and consistent with a variety of theoretical perspectives).  Meanwhile, newly democratizing countries — those in transition — are the opposite.

The paper also looks at the content:  what kinds of claims generate rulings against states.  Wade finds that claims about due process (& detention) and basic liberties are most often viewed as violations — as compared, say, to complaints about voting rights, family issues, and the like.  It sounds like the HRC is most aggressive on the “traditional” home turf of the HR regime… and less willing to support claims on “softer” issues.

Anyhow, Wade mentioned that he’s revising it, so I’m sure he’d welcome comments/reactions.  Here is the current draft:

Cole Individuals v States HRC Rulings.pdf

Edit:  I emailed Wade with some thoughts about the models… and he mentions some future directions and related work:

Wade writes:  “I’m currently undertaking more detailed analyses to determine if the composition of the HRC along various lines (political, cultural, etc.) influences rulings. I’m especially interested in interaction and period effects – for instance, are Western countries more likely to be found in violation as the number of HRC members from communist countries increases during the Cold War, and are non-Western countries more likely to be found in violation as the number of Western members increases after the Cold War? I hope I have sufficient sample sizes for these sorts of analyses.”
“Incidentally, I have a companion paper under R&R at International Sociology which finds that violations do, in some cases, have a positive effect on subsequent practices. The effect varied by type of abuse: infractions of civil rights and religious freedom were more susceptible to change than was abuse of physical integrity rights such as torture. These findings made good sense to me.”

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