Does Criminalizing Torture Deter Police Torture?

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

10-2023

Publisher

Wiley

Source Publication

American Journal of Political Science

Source ISSN

0092-5853

Original Item ID

DOI: 10.1111/ajps.12684

Abstract

Much research casts doubt on the effectiveness of legal norms for improving respect for human rights. But such studies have mostly focused on treaty ratifications or constitutional provisions. In contrast, I focus on national criminal law. I argue that criminalization of torture is more likely to deter police torture than these other forms of legal prohibition, because criminalization more credibly increases the threat of material and social costs of torture, while also helping to catalyze mobilization that amplifies these deterrent effects. Using an original, global dataset on national criminal laws against torture, I find that states that criminalize torture and define it in line with the standards codified in the UN Convention against Torture experience reductions in police torture. These findings highlight a largely unexplored angle on the relationship between law and human rights protection and underscore the general importance of domestic legal internalization for the effectiveness of international law.

Comments

American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 67, No. 4 (October 2023): 932-947. DOI.

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