When All Else Fails: International Adjudication of Human Rights Abuse Claims, 1976-1999

Working Papers

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CDDRL Working Papers

January 2005

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Although interest among sociologists in the consolidation and expansion of an international human rights regime has grown in recent years, little attention is accorded the formal procedures that allow individuals aggrieved by states to appeal directly to an international audience. Using data for 82 countries between 1976 and 1999, this article examines the political and cultural factors that affect the number and rate of individual human rights abuse claims filed with Human Rights Committee. Negative binomial and event history analyses indicate that a country's favorable human rights practices, political democracy, and membership in most non-Western civilizations significantly reduce the number and rate of claims emanating from a country. Conversely, extensive participation in international non-governmental organizations, membership in Western civilization, and intra-state diffusion processes increase the number and rate of claims filed against a country. Other factors, including post-communist regime changes, state participation in international governmental organizations, the World Human Rights Conference, and GDP per capita, have no impact. Results suggest that claims alleging state abuse of human rights

  1. increase as a country's human rights practices worsen;
  2. decline as effective means of recourse become available domestically; and
  3. increase with the cultural empowerment of individuals.
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