TAMIU Profs Publish Article on International Human Rights
Posted: 10/16/14

TAMIU Professors Publish Article
Exploring Support for International Human Rights

Two Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) professors recently published a study where they identified the conditions under which governments voluntarily agree to limit their own powers for greater levels of international accountability in the form of supranational courts such as the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The article, written by Dr. Simon Zschirnt, assistant professor, political science, and Dr. Mark Menaldo, assistant professor  and director, TAMIU College of Arts and Sciences Department of Public Affairs and Social Research Political Science Program, appears in the fall issue of the International Journal of Transitional Justice.

“We looked at the negotiations that created the International Criminal Court. While there was a broad international consensus that there should be a court, transcripts of the negotiations showed there were significant differences of opinion among countries in terms of how powerful the court should be,” said Dr. Zschirnt.

Simon Zschirnt

Dr. Simon Zschirnt

The analysis found that a recent history of autocratic repression was the strongest predictor of a government’s degree of support for a strong ICC.

“The countries without a recent history of authoritarianism or serious human rights violations supported the court in principle, but were less favorable toward a very powerful court. The most consistent supporters of a very powerful and independent court were transitional countries—new democracies which had recently moved out of authoritarianism and had experienced instability and serious human rights violations in their recent pasts,” explained Zschirnt.

“Such support from new democracies is noteworthy because the conventional wisdom in international relations expects that countries with a longer history of democratic governance and norms would act as the stewards for the International Criminal Court; our results indicate that this is not the case,” explained Dr. Menaldo.

Mark Menaldo

Dr. Mark Menaldo

Governments classified as authoritarian at the time of the negotiations were predictably the least supportive for stronger international protection of human rights, he added.

The resulting patterns can be applied to predict what countries would support stronger international protection of human rights. The same framework would also help explain the negotiations which created other international courts.

Zschirnt’s previous research has been in law and courts in the American context, but he found similar patterns of support for judicial empowerment in the U.S. and internationally (support for judicial empowerment as a form of “insurance”). Thus, the study also has relevance to domestic politics.

“The U.S. tends to be resistant to these types of institutions and I think part of the reason is because we don’t see it as offering us anything. We see ourselves as being the oldest and most stable democracy in the world, so we don’t think we need any international bodies enforcing standards of democracy and human rights on us because we are the global standard for that,” said Zschirnt.

Zschirnt presented the paper last year at the Western Political Science Association Annual Meeting.

For more information, contact Zschirnt at simon.zschirnt@tamiu.edu or 326.2629 or visit offices in Anthony J. and Georgia A. Canseco Hall, room 313B.

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