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October 9 Seminar: Jim Vreeland

"CAT Selection: Why Governments enter into the UN Convention Against Torture" by Jim Vreeland. Reading for October 9, 2003

By Leah Halvorson

This paper addresses a puzzle discovered by Hathaway (2002, 2003a, b): Dictatorships that practice torture are more likely to enter into the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT) than dictatorships that do not practice torture. I argue the reason for this has to do with the logic of torture. Torture is more likely to occur where power is shared. In pure dictatorships that rely on fear and intimidation, the fear is so great that fewer individuals choose to defect against the regime. Consequently, less torture occurs. There is more torture where power is shared (Kalyvas 2000, Arendt 1970), such as where dictatorships allow independent political parties. Because power is not absolute, individuals will realize that not all acts of defection will be caught, so more will occur. Some defectors will be caught, however, so-ironically- torture rates will be higher. Because the interest groups represented in these institutions exert some independent power, however, they will pressure the dictatorial regime to make concessions. One cheap concession these dictatorships can make is the symbolic gesture of entering into the CAT.

Download File: Vreeland_CAT_Selection_Oct8.pdf

UCLA International Institute