Human rights prosecutions have been the major policy innovation of the late twentieth century designed to address human rights violations. The main justification for such prosecutions is that sanctions are necessary to deter future violations. In this article, we use our new data set on domestic and international human rights prosecutions in 100 transitional countries to explore whether prosecuting human rights violations can decrease repression. We find that human rights prosecutions after transition lead to improvements in human rights protection, and that human rights prosecutions have a deterrence impact beyond the confines of the single country. We also explore the mechanisms through which prosecutions lead to improvements in human rights. We argue that impact of prosecutions is the result of both normative pressures and material punishment and provide support for this argument with a comparison of the impact of prosecutions and truth commissions, which do not involve material punishment.Mass human rights violations are among the most pressing international problems facing policymakers today. Many more people were killed by their own governments in the twentieth century than the combat deaths of all the wars combined. 2 The early years of the twenty-first century give no indication that this trend is abating. Yet, while the academic literature on the causes of war is well developed, the literature on causes of human rights violations is still relatively new. Because human rights violations are so prevalent, the discussion of how to prevent or diminish repression has important theoretical and policy implications. 1 We thank Songying Fang,
This article surveys and analyzes twenty-four governmental and intergovernmental bodies that are currently active in peacebuilding in order to, first, identify critical differences in how they conceptualize and operationalize their mandate, and, second, map areas of potential concern. We begin by briefly outlining the various terms used by different actors to describe their peacebuilding activities and correlate these terms with differing core mandates, networks of interaction, and interests. We then identify the divisions regarding the specific approaches and areas of priority. Thus far most programs have focused on the immediate or underlying causes of conflict-to the relative neglect of state institutions. We conclude by raising concerns about how peacebuilding is institutionalized in various settings, including at the UN's Peacebuilding Commission.
Two parallel norms mandate an international duty to hold state leaders individually accountable for serious corruption and human rights crimes. The development of these new norms is poorly explained by realist and neoliberal perspectives, but there are also weaknesses in recent constructivist explanations of norm diffusion that emphasize agency at the expense of structure. Such approaches have difficulty explaining the source of and similarities between new norms, and treat norm entrepreneurs as prior to and separate from their environment. In contrast, drawing on sociological institutionalism, we present a more structural explanation of individual accountability norms. The norms derive from an overarching modernist world culture privileging individual rights and responsibilities, as well as rational-legal authority. This culture is more generative of norm entrepreneurs than generated by them. The specific norms are instantiated through a process of "theorization" within permissive post-Cold War conditions, and diffused via mimicry, professionalization, and coercive isomorphism.We gratefully acknowledge comments and suggestions from
The justice cascade refers to a new global trend of holding political leaders criminally accountable for past human rights violations through domestic and international prosecutions. In just three decades, state leaders have gone from being immune to accountability for their human rights violations to becoming the subjects of highly publicized trials in many countries of the world. New research suggests that such trials continue to expand and often result in convictions, including some of high-level state officials. This article summarizes research on the origins of the justice cascade and its effects on human rights practices around the world. It presents evidence that such prosecutions are affecting the behavior of political leaders worldwide and have the potential to help diminish human rights violations in the future.
Interest in cross-national comparison of transitional justice mechanisms has grown recently, as has the study of truth commissions in particular. However, as is true of many emerging areas of research, progress has been hampered by significant gaps in data and by a lack of consensus as to what constitutes the universe of cases. To address this problem, this article introduces the most comprehensive truth commission database we know to be in existence. First, we describe the process of collecting information on truth commission cases and outline our logic in determining what cases to include in the database. Then, we briefly discuss the attributes of truth commission cases included in the database and explain our reasoning regarding their inclusion. Finally, we use the data to provide an overview of patterns and trends in the use of truth commissions.
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