Helms School of Government


Master of Arts in Public Policy (MAPP)


David B VanHeemst


Comparative Studies, Democracy, Economic Sanctions, Human Rights International Political Economy


Comparative Politics | International Relations | Other Political Science | Political Science


In the past, research into the field of human rights has treated regime as a dichotomous variable and divided the type of governmental structure into either autocracies or democracies. By lumping all democracies into one category, all variation between different categories of governmental composition is discarded and it is difficult to examine the differences between types of democratic governments and their human rights capacities. Due to their tendency to accrete power centrally, presidential democracies are thought to repress the rights of citizens more often and severely than parliamentary systems. Further, an exogenous shock to the political system, such as the threat or the imposition of an economic sanction is expected to act as a catalyst for repression. Using three different datasets of indicators of physical integrity human rights from a global sample over the years of 1976-1990 for two datasets and 1981-1990 for another, democracies are indeed shown to differ in their propensity to violate human rights. The effect of economic sanctions is negligible and is only significant in one model.