research on international human rights institutions


Institutional Complexity in the Inter-American Human Rights System (with Cristiane Lucena Carneiro, University of São Paulo)

Research on international regimes has increasingly focused on the role of institutional complexity. Also, research has shown the growing level of complexity of human rights regimes. Even though the human rights literature has largely focused on explanations of the conditions under which countries comply with their obligations, whether and how institutional complexity affects the compliance record of countries remains largely unknown. This project aims to fill this gap and looks at the influence of treaty ratification on compliance through the angle of regime complexity. We investigate the link between institutional complexity and compliance with respect to the Inter-American Human Rights System. In a first part, we present a theoretical argument why and how institutional complexity influences compliance with human rights. In the second part, we rely on a measure of institutional complexity based on states’ subscription to human rights treaties and their decision density on human rights to analyze the effect of complexity on compliance. Results based on the prohibition of torture show that complexity influences the level of compliance, however, not necessarily in the expected direction.

Working paper:
Carneiro, Cristiane Lucena and Simone Wegmann. Complexity and Compliance in the Inter-American Human Rights System.

Published article:
Carneiro, Cristiane Lucena and Simone Wegmann. 2018. Institutional complexity in the Inter-American Human Rights System: an investigation of the prohibition of torture. The International Journal of Human Rights 22(9):1229-1248. Article


Comliance with Human Rights (with Simon Hug, University of Geneva)

The empirical assessment of how signatories of human rights conventions comply with their agreed to obligations has yielded so far conflicting results, especially regarding the compliance mechanisms that are the most promising to ensure improving human rights records. We argue that this has to do with the fact that different compliance mechanisms have been assessed in isolation, without considering possible interactions. To assess this argument, we propose a novel way to assess the eect of these mechanisms by relying on a Markov-transition model and that human rights violations are time dependent as well as evidence of the effect of independent variables to be conditional on previous human rights violations and on the strength of human rights compliance systems.

Published article:
Hug, Simon and Simone Wegmann. 2016. Complying with human rights. International interactions 42(4): 590-615. Article

Switzerland in the United Nations (with Simon Hug, University of Geneva)

Prior to its full membership in the United Nations, Switzerland was an active observer and even an active member of many specialized UN agencies. However, ten years ago, Swiss voters finally approved full UN membership and in 2002, behavioral data started to become available on Switzerland’s involvement in the major UN assemblies. Switzerland was admitted to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) as a full member on September 10th, 2002 and was elected to the newly created UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in 2006. Switzerland wished to be an active partner in both of these assemblies. In this research note we describe, based on novel data collected on the UNGA and the UNHRC, how Switzerland positions itself in the “orchestra of nations.”

Published article:
Hug, Simon and Simone Wegmann. Ten years in the United Nations: Where does Switzerland stand? Swiss Political Science Review 19(2): 212–232. Article