International regulatory agreements depend largely on self-reporting for implementation, yet we know almost nothing about whether or how such mechanisms work. We theorize that self-reporting processes provide information for domestic constituencies, with the potential to create pressure for better compliance. Using original data on state reports submitted to the Committee Against Torture, we demonstrate the influence of this process on the pervasiveness of torture and inhumane treatment. We illustrate the power of self-reporting regimes to mobilize domestic politics through evidence of civil society participation in shadow reporting, media attention, and legislative activity around antitorture law and practice. This is the first study to evaluate systematically the effects of self-reporting in the context of a treaty regime on human rights outcomes. Since many international agreements rely predominantly on self-reporting, the results have broad significance for compliance with international regulatory regimes globally.
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Authors’ note: For helpful feedback, the authors would like to thank Christian Davenport, Christopher Fariss, Tyler Giannini, Emily Hafner-Burton, Courtney Hillebrecht, Michael Ignatieff, Katerina Linos, Yonatan Lupu, Samuel Moyn, Gerald Neuman, Gino Pauselli, Tonya Lee Putnam, Luis Moreno Ocampo, Kathryn Sikkink, Anton Strezhnev, Geir Ulfstein, Erik Voeten, and participants in the Harvard Carr Center Human Rights Colloquium; the WCFIA-HLS International Law-International Relations Workshop, Harvard; the Conference on the Domestic Politics of International Human Rights Agreements held at the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance, Princeton University; the Human Rights and Constitutionalism thematic working group at the University of Oslo, Faculty of Law and Norwegian Centre for Human Rights; the Agreements, Law, and International Politics workshop held at Rice University; and participants in the seminar held at UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations. The authors also thank Diana Li, Andrea Ortiz, Anton Strezhnev, Malina Toza, and Maria Sanchez for providing invaluable research assistance, and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and the University of Minnesota Human Rights Initiative for providing generous funding to support this research. All errors are our own.
© The Author(s) (2019). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Studies Association.