I research domestic politics and global governance of human rights and transitional justice, and I have broader interests in international law and institutions, transnational advocacy, political violence, and the politics of law and order.
One research agenda starts from the recognition that democracies often violate physical integrity rights, and this tends to result from criminal procedure and the treatment of marginalized societal sectors rather than of political dissidents. I seek to contribute to literatures on repression, international and domestic legal institutions, and policing, by investigating quantitative and qualitative shifts in violations. My dissertation investigated how public insecurity due to crime affects key mechanisms of global human rights change. I argue that it limits political mobilization for human rights by strengthening public support for heavy-handed policing, which puts political constraints on human rights reforms and undermines judicial protection. I find in cross-national statistical analyses that the association of judicial independence with less violations decreases with increasing public insecurity, regardless of membership in the Convention against Torture (CAT). In analyses of disaggregated torture allegations, I also find that when public insecurity is high, judicial independence is associated with decreased torture of dissidents among CAT members, but not of (suspected) criminals.
I continue to be interested in tensions between democratic accountability and human rights protection, with questions at domestic and international levels. For instance, in what ways is human rights backlash due to public insecurity driven by elites or by public opinion? How does the national organization of policing influence human rights change? Does international human rights law contribute to democratic policing, i.e. policing that is responsive to public needs and legally accountable? Does domestic legal accountability of law enforcement actors influence the sovereignty cost calculations involved in international commitments?
I also have a research agenda on transitional justice, where I am interested in the impacts of policies to address human rights violations committed during violent conflict or authoritarianism. In a recent article with Geoff Dancy on the contribution of truth commissions to democratic governance, we use disaggregated Varieties of Democracy data to show that these commissions are associated with improved democratic practices but possibly weakened non-electoral accountability institutions.