Date Presented:February 18
Human rights treaty bodies have for many years now been criticized as useless and self-reporting widely viewed as a whitewash. Yet very little research explores what, if any, influence this periodic review process has on governments’ implementation of and compliance with treaty obligations. We argue oversight committees may play an important role by providing information for international and domestic audiences. This paper examines the effects of self-reporting and oversight review, using original data on the quality and responsiveness of reports submitted to the Committee Against Torture (CmAT) and a dynamic approach to strengthen causal inference about the effects of the periodic review process on rights practices. We find that the review process in fact does reduce the incidence of torture in self-reporting states. Furthermore, we find that local media attention to the process in Latin American spikes during the review process, consistent with domestic awareness and mobilization made possible by media attention to torture practices and treaty obligations. Thus, this is the first study to present positive evidence on the effects of self-reporting on torture outcomes, contrary to the many studies that assert the process is basically useless.