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Foreign Pressure and the Politics of Autocratic Survival$
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Abel Escribà-Folch and Joseph Wright

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198746997

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198746997.001.0001

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Do Human Rights Prosecutions Destabilize Dictatorships?

Do Human Rights Prosecutions Destabilize Dictatorships?

(p.184) 7 Do Human Rights Prosecutions Destabilize Dictatorships?
Foreign Pressure and the Politics of Autocratic Survival

Abel Escribà-Folch

Joseph Wright

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines whether human rights prosecutions in transition countries deter dictatorships in other countries from relinquishing power. Two approaches are discussed. The optimistic view claims that prosecutions not only restore justice but also deter other regimes from abusing human rights. The pessimistic view argues that prosecutions increase the incumbent elites’ expected likelihood of being punished if they lose office and thus deter dictators from leaving power. The chapter argues that the influence of human rights prosecutions should vary by whether the incumbent regime has institutionalized post-exit domestic guarantees. The evidence shows that human rights prosecutions in neighboring countries only deter personalist dictatorships from relinquishing office because these rulers are the least likely to have strong domestic guarantees of a safe haven once their time in power ends. The chapter illustrates this argument with a case study of the regime collapse in Libya and Yemen during the Arab Spring.

Keywords:   prosecutions, human rights, exit guarantees, post-exit punishment, exile, personalist regimes, Libya, Yemen

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