When Human Rights Collide With National Security: The Politics Of Torture In Times Of Insecurity

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This dissertation examines how the competing tensions between human rights norms and national security threats shape nation-states' human rights practices. This research particularly focuses on the varying contexts of security threat under which governments may or may not comply with the norms of human rights. Drawing on the case of torture, one of the most contentious human rights issues in contemporary times, I apply mixed-methods approach by combining a quantitative cross-national analysis with in-depth case studies of states in times of security threat: South Korea before and after the Cold War and the United States in the post 9/11 era. In the international analysis, I analyze cross-national, time-series data of 159 sovereign states between 1981 and 2010 with a particular focus on three stages: times of peace, period of armed conflict, and post-conflict. The results indicate that torture is prevented by INGO membership and an independent judicial body in peacetime, but the factors contributing to the protection of human rights in peacetime are neutralized during armed conflicts. In the post-conflict period, law becomes a pivotal factor to roll back practices of wartime torture: both the independent judicial body and the state's ratification of international anti-torture treaties decrease the likelihood of using torture. In the case study of South Korea, I use a process-tracing method to suggest that neither the government's signing of anti-torture treaties nor the political transition to democracy directly result in the end of torture. Rather, I reveal how the practice of torture disappears only through the persistent efforts of newly democratized governments and legal and civil society actors to establish a rule of law. Finally, in the case study of the United States, I examine how the established rule of law can be expanded to protect non-citizens who are in extraterritorial areas. I pay particular focus on the professional activism of the Guantánamo habeas lawyers that eventually expanded the jurisdiction of the United States courts to trial these non-citizen suspects housed in the Guantánamo Bay detention camp. This dissertation has strong implications for furthering our understanding of the promises and challenges of human rights in contemporary times.
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human rights; torture; rule of law
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Brashears,Matthew Edward
Tarrow,Sidney G
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Ph. D., Sociology
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Government Document
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dissertation or thesis
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