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A strong record of human rights protections is an important factor for a state to maintain a positive international reputation. In this article, we suggest that states will use compliance with human rights treaties as a mechanism by which to improve their reputations to help achieve their foreign policy goals. We hypothesize that international human rights compliance is a means to improve a state’s reputation in three specific situations: when the state is facing regional pressures as the result of a desire to join a regional organization; when the state is facing regional pressures not to run afoul of a court within a regional organization; or when a state seeks foreign assistance from an entity with human rights requirements for the receipt of such assistance. We examine our theory by analyzing human rights reports regarding state compliance with specific treaty obligations outlined in the Convention Against Torture (CAT). While the evidence for our hypotheses is mixed, we do find some support for our assertion that state compliance is linked to reputational concerns. In particular, states comply with the CAT when they are part of a regional organization that has a human rights court, and when they are receiving conditional aid from the European Union.
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- Human Rights as Reputation Builder: Compliance with the Convention Against Torture
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