why do authoritarian regimes sign the convention against torture? the badass story the united...

Why Do Authoritarian Regimes Sign the Convention Against Torture? The Badass Story The United Nations Human Rights Conventions Instructor: James Raymond Vreeland

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Why Do Authoritarian Regimes Sign the Convention Against Torture?

The Badass Story

The United Nations Human Rights Conventions

Instructor: James Raymond Vreeland


• Quick background on HUMAN RIGHTS treaties

• One Puzzle

• Four arguments

• Evidence

Quick background

On United Nations Human Rights Treaties…

Human Rights• Principally a legacy of World War II• 1948: Universal Declaration of Human

Rights http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

• 1966: – International Covenant on Civil and

Political Rights http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/a_ccpr.htm

– International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/a_cescr.htm

– http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpAfe-ruM4U

The core UN universal human rights treaties

• 1976: ICCPR – International Covenant on Civil and Political


• 1981:– CEDAW Convention on the Elimination of All

Forms of Discrimination Against Women

• 1987: The CAT– Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel,

Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (CAT)

What do they do?

• They all have:– Domestic legal requirements

• Enforced domestically…

– International Committees• Can be invited to make reports…

• Only the CAT has


Universal Jurisdiction

Torture committed against citizens of country A by citizens of country B while in country C can be prosecuted by country D!!!!!

Definition of torture

• The CAT defines torture as any act inflicted under public authority by which severe pain or suffering (physical or mental) is intentionally inflicted on a person for the purposes of obtaining information or a confession, punishment, intimidation, coercion, or discrimination.

• Note that “torture” is defined as a state-sanctioned crime

• The CAT is radical:– governments hand over prosecuting authority

to 3rd-parties for state-sanctioned crimes, perhaps committed against a state’s own citizens!

The CAT might have teeth!

• Examples: Pinochet– http://www.allbusiness.com/north-america/united-states-illinois-metro-areas-chicago/1110433-1.html

• The Bush Six– http://www.newyorker.com/talk/2009/04/13/090413ta_talk_mayer

Alberto Gonzales(Attorney General)

David Addington(Cheney Chief of Staff)

John Yoo(DOJ "torture memos")

William Haynes II(Pentagon Lawyer)

Jay Bybee(Asst Attorney Gen)

Douglas Feith(Deputy Defense Secretary)Douglas Feith(Former Gtown Prof)


• This threat of prosecution challenges the integrity of the U.S. government…

• It claims that U.S. officials can be criminally punished by a foreign court for official work they do for the American people…


– United States signed CAT 18 April 1988

– United States ratified CAT 21 October 1994

February 2011: •Human rights groups alleged: Pres. George W. Bush cancelled Swiss trip•Concerned about being held accountable in Geneva for alleged torture in Guantanamo Bay

•Bush Cancels Visit To Switzerland Due To Threat Of Torture Prosecution, Rights Groups Say (2011)•http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/05/bush-switzerland-torture_n_819175.html•http://uruknet.info/?p=m74649&hd=&size=1&l=e

Why sacrifice sovereignty?

• A central question in this class!

• The answer may depend on:

Political Regime

(Democracy vs. Dictatorship)

The Puzzle

• The relationship between:

– torture and CAT participation

• Completely different for democracies & dictatorships…

The Puzzle:

What’s going on with dictatorships?Four Arguments

• Regional norms

• Political cover

• Domestic institutions

• Leader resolve (badass)

Normative stories

• Governments follow their neighbors

• Norms defined:

• “a standard of appropriate behavior for actors with a given identity” (Finnemore and Sikkink 1998, 891; emphasis added)

• Goodliffe & Hawkins (2006) show a regional identity finding

• But why assume norms? Lots of things trend at the regional level

• Other mechanisms?

Political cover:• Democracies are easy to explain.

– Treaties become binding domestic law– So you sign iff you already have domestic laws prohibiting torture– You gain international reputation, and you lose nothing

• For dictatorships, treaties do not affect domestic law!

• Dictatorships who torture the most need the most cover

• So they are the most likely to sign/ratify

• CAT has no real meaning for them

• Domestic political institutions controlled by the dictatorship

• But why wouldn’t the non-torturers sign?

Domestic Institutions

• My story

• So counter-intuitive,

• It might even be wrong!

My argument begins with the logic of torture:

• Torture is more likely when power is shared than when power is absolute (Kalyvas 2000, Arendt 1970).

• A measure of power sharing?• Some dictatorships allow for


• Under no-party & one-party states, limitations are obvious.– No ambiguity.

• With multiple political parties, some degree of dissent is endorsed by the state.– Ambiguity. Some people go too far.

• I predict torture to be ironically higher in more liberal dictatorships with multiple political parties.

Will no/one-party states enter into the CAT?

• They are not anti-torture.

• One reason we observe low levels of torture is because of the FEAR of torture.

• They face no pressure from organized alternative political parties to adopt the CAT.

• I predict no/one-party states are less likely to sign/ratify the CAT.

Will multi-party dictatorships enter into the CAT?

• Institutions like multi-parties “encapsulate” parts of society into the regime (O’Donnell 1979, Gandhi and Przeworski 2006).

• Regime faces pressure from organized political parties.

• Policy concessions (Gandhi 2004).– Spend more on education, less on the military

• Entering the CAT is a form of policy concession.

• I predict more liberal dictatorships will be more likely to sign/ratify the CAT.


• Compared to one/no-party dictatorships…

• First: – Show that multi-party dictatorships torture???

• Class???• More torture

• Second: – Show that multi-party dictatorships CAT???

• Class???• Sign/Ratify CAT @ higher rates

Ordinal logitFixed effects


Duration dependence


Parties 0.58*** 0.71** 0.80***(standard error) (0.15) (0.34) (0.22)

GDP/capita 0.02 -0.33 -0.01(standard error) (0.03) (0.35) (0.03)

Growth 0.01** 0.01 0.02**(standard error) (0.003) (0.01) (0.01)

Population 0.002*** 0.12** 0.001*(standard error) (0.001) (0.04) (0.001)

Trade/GDP -0.01*** -0.01 -0.01***(standard error) (0.002) (0.01) (0.003)

Civil war 0.79*** 0.57 0.41*(standard error) (0.17) (0.47) (0.24)

Communist -1.10** -0.69(standard error) (0.36) (0.68)

Dictatorships with parties have higher levels of torture

To put this plainly:holding other things equal…

• For every 100 observations of dictatorships with no political parties and low levels of torture during a year, one can expect 7 of them to practice high levels of torture the following year (plus or minus 4).

• For every 100 observations of dictatorships with political parties and low levels of torture during a year, one can expect 14 of them to practice high levels of torture the following year (plus or minus 6).

• I conclude that torture is, somewhat counter-intuitively, more prevalent in dictatorships with multiple political parties.

Dictatorships with parties are more likely to sign/ratify the CAT

Torture & Parties Full spec

Torture & Parties Full spec Stripped spec

Parties 2.11** 2.87** 2.45** 2.18 2.87**

(p-value) (0.02) (0.01) (0.01) (0.13) (0.02)

Log torture 1.79* 1.19 1.66 0.89 1.35

(p-value) (0.10) (0.68) (0.22) (0.83) (0.51)

Communism 2.65* 1.13 1.50

(p-value) (0.09) (0.91) (0.57)

Regional score 0.64 9.96** 9.16***

(p-value) (0.74) (0.04) (0.01)

Number under 0.96 0.97 0.97

(p-value) (0.33) (0.39) (0.12)

Muslim 1.90 1.56 1.44

(p-value) (0.25) (0.42) (0.47)

GDP/capita 1.06 1.07

(p-value) (0.17) (0.20)

Population 1.00 1.00 1.00*

(p-value) (0.16) (0.20) (0.06)

Trade/GDP 0.99 0.99

(p-value) (0.20) (0.33)

Ratification –Hazard ratios reported

Signing –Hazard ratios reported









0 5 10 15analysis time

party = 0 party = 1

Kaplan-Meier survival estimates, by party

Ratifying the CAT

The story explains…• Why governments with more torture enter into the CAT:

– We observe more torture because power is divided (political parties).

– Governments enter the CAT as a concession to the interest groups represented in the political parties.

• Why governments without torture do not enter the CAT:

– There is less torture because there is more fear of torture.

– The last thing these regimes–that rely on fear–want to do is make a gesture that they oppose torture.

– These regimes are not anti-torture, and face no pressure to enter into the CAT.

Leader-resolve story

• Addresses the puzzle that dictatorships with the worst human rights records are the most likely to sign

• Argues that signing “commits” the leader to prison if he relinquishes power

• Commitment is credible because of international enforcement

• Signals to the domestic audience that the leader is a high-resolve type

• May ironically lower torture as the domestic audience realizes it is futile to resist

• Absent resistance, dictatorships need not practice as much torture

• Low-resolve types do not sign because they fear going to prison if they fall from power, which they deem likely

• Why don’t low-resolve types practice as much torture to begin with?

• Could the practice of torture itself act as a signal of resolve?

Badass story

Badass take-away

• The strongest of the dictatorships – the most sure of survival – enter into the CAT

• Keep this in mind for next time

Rosendorff’s broader view:

• International institutions as signals to domestic constituents

• Trade agreements– Used by democracies to signal low-protectionism

• World Bank– Collects data as a credible 3rd party for democracies

to be transparent

• The CAT– Used by dictatorships to signal leader-resolve

Today’s Main Conclusions

• One puzzle:– dictatorships with more torture are more likely to enter the CAT

• Four answers:– Norms, Political cover, Domestic institutions, Leader resolve

• Social science is like a mystery novel– We start with basic core theories

– We encounter puzzles to explain

– We apply the basic core theories to construct a specific argument


• The key to all science is testing – conjectures and refutations

Can the Badass & Wimp stories fit together?

• Were there any “badasses” (high-leader-resolve) dictatorships in Europe?

• What if there had been?

Strongly established dictators:

Can use HR agreements to CREDIBLY signal resolve


Vulnerable dictators:

Afraid of HR agreements because they commit torture, and might fall from power some day


Vulnerable democracies:

Can use HR agreements to LOCK-IN policy


Strongly established democracies:

Don’t need HR agreements to lock-in, and thus prefer to keep their sovereignty


Putting the stories together:What do each of the following want?


Cases of no parties and (dictatorship) low torture

• Burkina Faso under Thomas Sankara (1983 to 1987)• Burundi under the dictatorships of Jean-Baptiste Bagaza (1981–87) and Pierre Buyoya

(1987–1993)• Central African Republic under Andre Kolingba (1981–1993)

• The dictatorship of Paul Biya in Cameroon also experienced low levels of torture from 1985 through 1991, during which period multiple parties were not allowed. When the Biya dictatorship finally did legalize political parties in 1992, rates of torture reached their highest levels.

• Gabon under Omar Bongo, where torture averaged 2.2 according to the Hathaway scale during the closed party period from 1985 to 1989, but averaged 3.1 during the open party period from 1990 to 1996. The pattern, while not as stark, is also found in Mauritania under Moaouya Ould Sidi Ahmed Taya, where torture averaged 2.8 when parties were not allowed from 1985 to 1990, and torture averaged 3.3 when parties were legal.

• Ibrahim Babangida’s dictatorship in Nigeria. Torture levels averaged 2.3 when parties were officially closed (1985–1988), but the average level went up to 4.0 when parties were legalized (1989–1992). The dictatorship of Juvenal Habyarimana in Rwanda had low rates of torture averaging 1.5 from 1985 to 1990 when parties were closed, but the torture rate averaged 3.7 when parties were legal from 1991–1993.

• Cote d’Ivoire, the closed single party dictatorship of Felix Houphouet-Boigny had but a few isolated incidences of torture from 1985 to 1989. In 1990, when Cote d’Ivoire legalized multiple parties, torture became more common, reaching “frequent” levels in 1992, according to the CIRI measure of torture. CIRI also reports that torture in Cote d’Ivoire reached “frequent” levels again in 1995 under Henri Konan Bedie. Interestingly, this is the same year the government signed and ratified the CAT.

Cases of parties and high torture

• Egypt, where multiple parties were legalized under Anwar el-Sadat in 1976. Torture averaged 3.8 from 1985 to 1996, with “common” rates of torture from 1988 to 1994 and “prevalent” torture in 1995.

• Torture rates also reached “prevalent” levels in the open dictatorship of Mexico under Carlos Salinas (in 1991 and 1992) – multiple parties were legal throughout.

• Other examples of high torture rates under multi-party dictatorships include Paraguay (1986) and Georgia (1992–3).

Cases where dictatorships failed to signed the CAT without political parties but did accede after legalizing political parties

• Benin, which legalized political parties in 1990, and then signed and ratified the CAT in 1992;

• Burundi, which legalized political parties in 1992 and then signed and ratified the CAT in 1993;

• Chad, which legalized political parties in 1992 and then signed and ratified the CAT in 1995;

• Ethiopia, which legalized political parties in 1991 and then signed and ratified the CAT in 1994;

• Malawi, which opened political parties in 1993 and signed and ratified the CAT in 1996;

• Nepal, which opened political parties in 1990, signing and ratifying in 1991;

• Chile, which opened political parties the same year as it signed the CAT (1987), ratifying the following year (see Hawkins - raises the interesting possibility of international legitimacy as a further payoff from entering into the CAT)

Further work on norms• Political regime identity?

– Do democracies follow democracy-norms?– Institutionalized dictatorships (multi-party dictatorships) follow

their own norms?– “Pure” dictatorships have their norms?

• We find little evidence of political regime identity at a global level, but strong evidence for democracies and mp dictatorships at the regional level

• But why assume norms? Lots of things trend at the regional level

• Other mechanisms?