2019 When States Crack Down on Human Rights Defenders (with Kristin M. Bakke and Neil Mitchell)

Abstract: Research suggests that civil society mobilization together with the ratification of human rights treaties put pressure on governments to improve their human rights practices. An unexplored theoretical implication is that pressure provokes counter-pressure. Instead of improving treaty compliance, some governments will have an interest in de-mobilizing civil society to silence their critics. Yet we do not know how and to what extent this incentive shapes governments’ policies and practices regarding civil society organizations. We argue and show—using a new global database of government-sponsored restrictions on civil society organizations—that when governments have committed to human rights treaties and, at the same time, continue to commit severe human rights abuses, they impose restrictions on civil society groups to avoid monitoring and mitigate the international costs of abuses.

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