Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 6 > Issue 3–4

Why Do Authoritarian Regimes Sign the Convention Against Torture? Signaling, Domestic Politics and Non-Compliance

James R. Hollyer, Leitner Program in International and Comparative Political Economy, the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies, Yale University, USA, james.hollyer@yale.edu , B. Peter Rosendorff, Department of Politics, New York University, USA, peter.rosendorff@nyu.edu
Suggested Citation
James R. Hollyer and B. Peter Rosendorff (2011), "Why Do Authoritarian Regimes Sign the Convention Against Torture? Signaling, Domestic Politics and Non-Compliance", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 6: No. 3–4, pp 275-327. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00010059

Publication Date: 16 Nov 2011
© 2011 J. R. Hollyer and B. P. Rosendorff
Autocracy,  Human rights,  International organization,  Formal modelling


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In this article:
Autocracies and the CAT 
Torture and the CAT 
Leader Survival 
Single Record Cox Estimates 
Multiple Record Survival Analysis 
Opposition Effort and Government Repression 
Change in Torture Levels 
Alternative Explanations for the Findings 
Appendix: Proofs 


Traditional international relations theory holds that states will join only those international institutions with which they generally intend to comply. Here we show when this claim might not hold. We construct a model of an authoritarian government's decision to sign the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT). Authoritarian governments use the signing of this treaty — followed by the willful violation of its provisions — as a costly signal to domestic opposition groups of their willingness to employ repressive tactics to remain in power. In equilibrium, authoritarian governments that torture heavily are more likely to sign the treaty than those that torture less. We further predict that signatory regimes survive longer in office than non-signatories, and enjoy less domestic opposition — and we provide empirical support for these predictions.