The Review of International Organizations

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 449–475 | Cite as

Human rights treaties and mobilized dissent against the state

  • Emily Hencken Ritter
  • Courtenay R. Conrad


How does state obligation to international human rights treaties (HRTs) affect mobilized dissent? We argue that obligations to protect human rights affect not only state behavior but also the behavior of dissidents. We present a theory in which the effect of HRTs on dissent is conditional on expectations of when it will constrain government behavior. We assume that HRT obligation increases the likelihood that government agents face litigation costs for repression but argue that leaders are only constrained when they would be most likely to repress. The expectation of constraint creates opportunity: citizens are more likely to dissent in HRT-obligated states with secure leaders and weak domestic courts. We find empirical support for the implications of our theory using country-month data on HRT obligation and dissent events from 1990 to 2004.


Human rights treaties International law Protest Dissent Repression Domestic conflict 

JEL Classification

K55 F33 

Supplementary material (698 kb)
(ZIP 697 KB)


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CaliforniaMercedUSA

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