Structural determinants of human rights prosecution after democratic transition

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Title Structural determinants of human rights prosecution after democratic transition
Author Kim, Hunjoon
Journal Name Journal of Peace Research
Year Published 2012
Place of publication United Kingdom
Publisher Sage
Abstract Over the last three decades, a growing number of countries have experienced a transition from authoritarianism to democracy, and the new governments have been increasingly expected to address past human rights violations. While the academic literature on the impact of human rights prosecution is relatively well developed, the literature on the causes of such prosecution is still sparse. Why do states pursue criminal prosecutions against former state officials on the charge of human rights violations? This article answers this question by testing three key theories: the balance of power between old and new elites, transnational advocacy networks, and the diffusion theory. I conduct a crossnational study of 71 countries that were in a state of democratic transitions between 1980 and 2006, using a new dataset on domestic human rights prosecutions. I find strong evidence to support the transnational advocacy networks and diffusion explanations. First, active domestic and international human rights advocacy for individual criminal accountability is a key factor guaranteeing persistent and frequent human rights prosecutions. My study further shows that domestic advocacy plays a crucial role in criminal prosecutions of high-profile state officials while international pressure is more effective in promoting prosecutions of low-profile officials. Second, the diffusion theory is also supported since the occurrence of human rights prosecution in neighboring countries is a relevant factor. Interestingly, transitional countries are most sensitive to trials occurring in culturally or linguistically similar countries and this supports the constructivist norm diffusion theory, which focuses on the role of identity and communication in the diffusion process. However, I find that the power balance explanation, which has been the prevailing explanation, is valid only for the immediate use of human rights prosecutions.
Peer Reviewed Yes
Published Yes
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Copyright Statement Copyright 2012 The Author. This is the author-manuscript version of the paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.
Volume 49
Issue Number 2
Page from 305
Page to 320
ISSN 0022-3433
Date Accessioned 2012-05-14
Language en_US
Research Centre Centre for Governance and Public Policy; Griffith Asia Institute
Faculty Griffith Business School
Subject International Relations
Publication Type Journal Articles (Refereed Article)
Publication Type Code c1

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