Uncommon compliance : law enforcement through the lens of international human rights
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International treaties consist of horizontal obligations between two or more states and are enforced when one state holds another accountable. But human rights treaties are fundamentally different. Human rights treaties consist of vertical obligations between a state and its citizens. Because of the nature of the obligations states will rarely hold one another accountable. And yet, despite the absence of this traditional enforcement mechanism, human rights treaties can change state behavior. Why do human rights treaties change behavior and what lessons can be drawn to encourage compliance in other areas of law? This professional report uses qualitative examples and existing quantitative studies and to examine state compliance with three human rights treaties: the Convention against Torture (CAT), the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The report then examines whether different explanations for state compliance can explain actual compliance records. The findings suggest that no single factor can explain state compliance with human rights treaties. Concern for reputation, the presence of civil society groups, the existence of a strong judiciary, and citizen interest in enforcing the law are all partial explanations for compliance. These factors interact with one another, improving or undermining enforcement. The findings suggest that domestic factors are an important part of international law compliance and that acceptance of a law by the domestic public is vital to compliance. The findings further suggest that international law enforcement can be carried out at lower levels of governance. Finally this paper suggests how the lessons from human rights compliance can be applied in other areas, specifically, in domestic law enforcement. Many of the factors which encourage compliance with international law may be used to encourage compliance with domestic laws. The same enforcement delegation that improves compliance with human rights law may improve compliance with domestic law.