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Human Rights, Principled Issue-Networks, and Sovereignty in Latin America

Author(s): Kathryn Sikkink


Source: International Organization, Vol. 47, No. 3 (Summer, 1993), pp. 411-441
Published by: The MIT Press
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Human rights,principled
and sovereignty
issue-networks,
Sikkink
in Latin America Kathryn

of
The humanrightsissue is an importantcase studyof how understandings
role
are beingreshapedin theworldand oftheimportant
sovereignty
currently
of transnationalactors in that process. The doctrine of internationally
protectedhumanrightsoffersone ofthemostpowerfulcritiquesofsovereignty
as currentlyconstituted,and the practicesof human rightslaw and human
of
understandings
rightsforeignpoliciesprovideconcreteexamplesof shifting
In thisarticle,I arguethathumanrightspoliciesand
the scope of sovereignty.
and probablyirreversible
to a gradual,significant,
practicesare contributing
in themodernworldand thatthisshiftcannotbe
transformation
ofsovereignty
nonstateactors.
explainedwithouttakingintoaccounttheroleoftransnational
In the post-WorldWar II period,a humanrightsmovementhelped create
organizaregionaland internationalhumanrightsregimes.Nongovernmental
tions(NGOs) formedpartof a networkof organizationsworkingtogetheron
behalf of human rights,a networkthat also included parts of global and
organizations(IGOs) and privatefoundations.I
regionalintergovernmental
referto thisbroader set of organizationsas an internationalissue-network.'
This researchwas assistedbyan awardfromtheSocial Science ResearchCouncilofan advanced
fellowshipin foreignpolicystudieswiththe supportof a grantfromthe Ford Foundation,and by
of Minnesota.I am gratefulto Douglas
at theUniversity
the McKnightLand-GrantProfessorship
Legro, Ellen Lutz, Thomas Risse-Kappen,
Chalmers,RaymondDuvall, MargaretKeck, Jeffrey
and JohnS. Odell for
Organization,
Welna, twoanonymousreviewersforInternational
Christopher
theirhelpfulcommentson earlier versionsof this article and related articlesand to Kristina
Thalhammerforresearchassistance.
1. There is a large literaturein organizationtheoryon networkanalysis,some of which is
relevantto the case presentedhere. For an overviewof thisliterature,see Howard Aldrichand
and Networks:MakingtheMostofSimplicity,"
Action-sets,
David A. Whetten,"Organization-sets,
Design (New York: Oxford
in Paul Nystromand W. Starbuck,eds., Handbook of Organizational
Press,1981),pp. 385-408. This organizationliteratureoccasionallyhas been applied to
University
internationalrelations. See ChristerJonsson, "InterorganizationTheory and International
30 (March 1986), pp. 39-57; and Gayl D. Ness and
StudiesQuarterly
Organization,"International
Steven R. Brechin,"Bridgingthe Gap: InternationalOrganizationsas Organizations,"Interna42 (Spring1988), pp. 245-73. Kamarotosapplies networktheoryto the human
tionalOrganization
47, 3, Summer1993
International
Organization
? 1993 byThe IO Foundationand the MassachusettsInstituteof Technology

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412 InternationalOrganization
These networksdifferfromother formsof transnationalrelations,such as
organizedinterestgroups,in that
epistemiccommunitiesor transnationally
ideas-ideas aboutwhatis
bysharedvaluesor principled
theyare drivenprimarily
goals.2
thansharedcausalideasorinstrumental
rightandwrong-rather
This argumentwillbe exploredthrougha comparativestudyoftheimpactof
internationalhumanrightspressureson Argentinaand Mexico in the 1970s
and 1980s.3Both are largecountrieswithtraditionsofjealouslyguardingtheir
sovereignprerogatives.Both have had problematichuman rightspractices,
althoughtheArgentinehumanrightsrecordwas muchmoreseriousduringthe
periodof the so-calleddirtywar from1976 to 1980. The internationalhuman
rightsnetworkworked intensivelyon Argentina,contributingto improved
practicesby the early1980s.The networkdid not focuson Mexico, however,
the 1980s.Onlyafter
and lower-levelbutendemicabuses continuedthroughout
on
international
attention
Mexico
after1987did the
thenetworkconcentrated
human
takemovesto improve
Mexicangovernment
rightspractices.
Sovereigntyand human rights
The debate overhumanrightsis embeddedin a morefundamentaldebate over
in the modernworld.Sovereignty
is often
the changingnatureof sovereignty
Claims
seen as a seriesofclaimsaboutthenatureand scope ofstateauthority.4
about sovereigntyare forceful,however,because they represent shared
and expectationsthatare constantlyreinforcedboth through
understandings
thepracticesofstates5and thepracticesofnonstateactors.
than
ofnetworkand oforganizationalenvironment
rightsissuebutuses muchnarrowerdefinitions
theresearchpresentedhere;see AlexanderS. Kamarotos,"A View intoNGO Networksin Human
RightsActivities:NGO ActionwithSpecial Referenceto the UN Commissionon Human Rights
paper presentedat a conventionof the InternationalPoliticalScience
and its Sub-commission,"
Association, Washington,D.C., 10-14 April 1990. Another recent discussion that mentions
WorldPolitics:The Emergence
networksin humanrightsis RonnieD. Lipschutz,"Reconstructing
Studies21 (Winter1992),pp. 389-420.
JoumalofIntemational
ofGlobal CivilSociety,"Millennium:
to
2. JudithGoldsteinand RobertKeohane classifybeliefsintothreegroupsin theintroduction
and PoliticalChange (Ithaca,
theiredited volume,Ideas and ForeignPolicy:Beliefs,Institutions,
whether
Ideas thatspecifycriteriafordetermining
Press,forthcoming).
N.Y.: CornellUniversity
actionsare rightor wrongand whetheroutcomesare just or unjustare called shared principled
beliefs. Beliefs about cause-effectrelationshipsare called shared causal beliefs. At a more
fundamentallevelis a thirdcategoryof ideas about the universeof possibilitiesforaction.Human
about a set of sharedprincipledideas, butto the degreethathumanrightsideas
rightsis primarily
of sovereignty,
theyalso workat the level of definingpossibilitiesfor
challengeunderstandings
see PeterM. Haas, ed., "Knowledge,Power,and International
action.On epistemiccommunities,
46 (Winter1992),pp. 1-390.
PolicyCoordination,"special issue,IntemationalOrganization
3. For a relatedstudythatexaminesthe impactof U.S. humanrightspolicyusinga two-level
game approach, see Lisa Martin and KathrynSikkink,"U.S. Policy and Human Rights in
Argentinaand Guatemala, 1973-1980,"in Peter Evans, Harold Jacobson,and Robert Putnam,
and DomesticPolitics(Berkeley:University
Bargaining
eds.,Double-edgedDiplomacy:Intemational
ofCaliforniaPress,forthcoming).
4. Stephen Krasner, "Westphalia," in Goldstein and Keohane, Ideas and ForeignPolicy.
5. Wendt stresses that sovereigntyis an institutionthat exists "only in virtue of certain

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Human rights 413


as statedbytheWorldCourt,thedoctrineofstatesovereignty
Traditionally,
has meantthatthe state"is subjectto no otherstate,and has fulland exclusive
powerswithinits jurisdiction."6Inevitably,internationalactivitiesto protect
that,as Louis
humanrightscontradicta core premiseoftraditionalsovereignty
Henkin has put it, "how a state behaved towardits own citizensin its own
i.e., not anyone else's business
was a matterof domesticjurisdiction,
territory
and thereforenot any businessforinternationallaw."7 Internationalhuman
rightswork presupposes that it is legitimateand necessaryfor states or
oftheinhabitantsofother
nonstateactorsto be concernedaboutthetreatment
network
seeks
to redefinewhat is
human
The
international
rights
states.
essentiallywithinthe domesticjurisdictionof states. The question to be
addressedhereiswhetherthesepressuressucceedinchangingstateunderstandings and in improvinghuman rightspractices.If they do, the meaning of
about thescope
has been modifiedbecause sharedunderstandings
sovereignty
of state authorityand the practices that reflectthose understandingsare
transformed.
has everbeen
Neitherthe practicenor the doctrineof internalsovereignty
absolute. National political leaders always have faced some international
on howtheycould treattheirownsubjects.The TreatyofAugsburg
constraints
and the Peace of Westphalia, for example, limited the discretionof the
thepracticeofreligionofhissubjects,and thecampaign
monarchincontrolling
forthe abolitionof slaveryin the nineteenthcenturymade clear thatcertain
concernand action.But
extremepracticeswould be an objectof international
untilWorld War II, in the widest range of issues the treatmentof subjects
remained withinthe discretionof the state; no importantlegal doctrine
withinits borders.
challengedthe supremacyof the state's absolute authority
thatbecame glaringduringWorldWar
The moralflawto internalsovereignty
II was that if the state itselfposed the primarythreatto the well-beingof
citizens,thesecitizenshad nowhereto turnforrecourseor protection.
In spite of different
languagesand approaches,manydiscussionsof soverMost views of
eigntyin internationalrelationsshare certaincharacteristics.
are so penetratedbystate-centric
logicthattheycontinueto focus
sovereignty
withoutan other." He
intersubjective
understandings
and expectations;thereis no sovereignty
normsare nowso takenforgranted,that"it is easyto overlooktheextentto
arguesthatsovereignty
whichtheyare bothpresupposedby and an ongoingartifactof practice."See AlexanderWendt,
"AnarchyIs What States Make of It: The Social Constructionof Power Politics,"International
46 (Spring1992),pp. 391-425. The quotationsare drawnfrompp. 412-13.
Organization
6. This classicaldefinition
of sovereignty
is givenbytheWorldCourtin theWimbledoncase, as
citedon page 164ofStanleyHoffmann,
"InternationalSystemsand InternationalLaw," in Richard
Law (New
A. Falk and Saul H. Mendlovitz,eds., The Strategy
of WorldOrder,vol. 2, International
York: WorldLaw Fund, 1966),pp. 134-66.
7. Louis Henkin,How NationsBehave: Law and ForeignPolicy,2d ed. (New York: Columbia
UniversityPress, 1979), p. 228. Also see James Mayall, Nationalismand IntemationalSociety
(Cambridge:CambridgeUniversity
Press,1990),p. 20; and NancyNewcombHaanstad, "CompulOver Human Rightsand DomesticJurisdiction,"
Ph.D. diss.,University
of Utah,
soryJurisdiction
1984,p. iv.

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414 InternationalOrganization
and practicesof statesas
almostexclusivelyon statesand the understandings
are usually abstractand
views
These
of
the sole determinant sovereignty.8
are so
of sovereignty
of
standard
understandings
critical
theorists
static.Even
and
constructed
is
of
sovereignty
the
discourse
how
with
exposing
concerned
maintainedthattheyoftenignorethe waysin whichconceptionsof the state
are evolving.9
and expectationsabout the
is a shared set of understandings
If sovereignty
authorityof the state and is reinforcedby practices, then a change in
and practices.In
understandings
willcome about bytransforming
sovereignty
thissense,the expansionof humanrightslaw and policyin thepostwarperiod
representeda conscious, collective attemptto modifythis set of shared
protected
and practices.Althoughthe idea of internationally
understandings
agenda whentheUnitedNations
humanrightswas placed on theinternational
(UN) General Assemblyadopted the UniversalDeclarationof Human Rights
of sovereignty
in 1948,thatidea was notinitiallytranslatedintoa modification
protectionofhumanrights.The onlyexceptionwas in
in practiceor to effective
Europe, wherethe European Conventionon Human Rightsand the practices
of the European humanrightssystembegan to have a gradual but profound
statesovereignty.10
impacton modifying
the means had to be found to translatethe human
To become effective,
rightsideals of the declarationand treatiesof the postwarperiod intowidely
and practices.The humanrightsnetworkhelped foster
sharedunderstandings
these means in two ways. Internationalorganizationsdeveloped formal
humanrightssituationsin memberstates.
proceduresto discussand investigate
if not used. The workof NGOs made
But formalproceduresare ineffective
states' repressivepracticesmore visible and salient,thus forcingstates that
otherwisewouldhave remainedsilentto respond.As theybecame moreaware
of human rightsviolations,some states demanded explanationsfromothers.
Faced withincreasedpressures,repressivestatestriedto providejustifications.
ofexposingviolations,demandingexplanations,providing
In thegive-and-take
and changingpractices,states and NGOs graduallyquestioned
justifications,
the elements
and began constructing
of sovereignty
traditionalunderstandings
When a state recognizesthe legitimacyof internaof a modifiedsovereignty.
on the topic of human rightsand changes its domestic
tional interventions
Politics(Reading, Mass.:
8. See Krasner,"Westphalia";KennethWaltz,TheoryofIntemational
2d ed. (Cambridge:Cambridge
Addison-Wesley,1979), pp. 95-96; and F. H. Hinsley,Sovereignty,
Press,1986).
University
9. See, for example, Wendt, "AnarchyIs What States Make of It"; and Richard Ashley,
"Untyingthe SovereignState: A Double Reading of the AnarchyProblematique,"Millennium:
JoumalofIntemationalStudies17 (Summer1988),pp. 227-61.
10. Sieghartregardsthe European Conventionon Human Rightsas "a substantialretreatfrom
see Paul Sieghart,The LawfuilRightsof
the previouslysacred principleof nationalsovereignty";
Mankind:An Introductionto the IntemationalLegal Code of Human Rights(Oxford: Oxford
UniversityPress, 1985), pp. 67-68. See also Rosalyn Higgins,"The European Conventionon
Law: Legal and PolicyIssues
Human Rights,"in TheodorMeron,ed.,HumanRightsinIntemational
(Oxford:ClarendonPress,1984),p. 538.

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Human rights 415


pressures,itreconstihumanrightspracticesin responseto theseinternational
actors.
tutestherelationshipbetweenthe state,itscitizens,and international
of sovereigntymore
To make the argumentabout the transformation
precise,I will specifya continuumof stateactionsand declarationsthatmove
fromreinforcingtraditionalunderstandingsof the scope of sovereigntyto
in which a state accepts that gross
revealinga reconceptualizedsovereignty
violationsof humanrightswillno longerbe an issue solelywithinits domestic
jurisdiction.
In the humanrightsrealm,thiscontinuumwould startwiththe statedenial
humanrights
of thelegitimacyand refusalto cooperatewithanyinternational
In the second stage the state would accept the
pressuresor interventions.
legitimacyof internationalhuman rightspractices,as evidencedby its statements in internationalforums,ratificationof the relevant human rights
humanrightsorganizationsbutnot
treaties,and cooperationwithinternational
change domesticrepressivepractices.The passage fromdenial to lip service
shiftinthesharedunderstandbutsuggestsan important
mayseeminsignificant
ings of states that make certain justificationsno longer acceptable. The
wouldinvolvethe
thatis,reconstituted
sovereignty,
endpointofthecontinuum,
and cooperationand also concreteresponsesto
oflegitimacy
above recognition
internationalpressuresthatchange domestichumanrightspractices.Argentina and Mexico are useful cases to explore changingconceptionsof soverdefenseof the
eignty,since both have a diplomatictraditionof intransigent
doctrineof internalsovereignty
and noninterference.
Changes in the underhuman
standingsand practicesof thesetwostateswithregardto international
is beingreconceptualrightspressuresserveas an indicationofhowsovereignty
ized.
but it
The humanrightsissue does notpresagean alternativeto sovereignty,
ofsovereignty
are modifiedin
suggestsa futuremodel in whichunderstandings
importanceto the
relationto specificissues that are deemed of sufficient
to
limit
the
of
We can see
international
scope
sovereign
authority.
community
thismodification
of sovereignty
occurringin otherspecificissue-areasas well,
such as the environment,
the deliveryof emergencyfood supplies,and the
As such,humanrightsis notsimplyanotherexception
protectionofminorities.
subset
to the rule of sovereignty
but partof a significant
thoughcircumscribed
are
of internationalissues forwhichmodifiedunderstandings
of sovereignty
increasingly
acceptedand practiced.

The internationalhumanrightsissue-network
An internationalissue-networkcomprisesa set of organizations,bound by
shared values and by dense exchangesof information
and services,working
on an issue. The diverseentitiesthatmake up theinternational
internationally
and
humanrightsissue-network
includepartsofIGOs at boththeinternational

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416 InternationalOrganization
regional levels, internationalNGOs on human rights,domestic NGOs on
will include a
human rights,and privatefoundations.Other issue-networks
and domesticNGOs play
somewhatdifferent
arrayof actors;but international
Theyare themostproactivemembersofthe
a centralrolein all issue-networks.
morepowerfulactorsto take
actionsand pressuring
networks,
usuallyinitiating
positions.
helpsexplainthe
The role of sharedvalues as thebasis oftheissue-networks
in
networks.
Activists
NGOs
join NGOs
of
centralinvolvement manyvoluntary
not
the
because
in
the
of
organizations,
principles
they
believe
strongly
because
Since
these
receive
from
that
membership.
benefits
they
of any tangible
of
and
the
dedication
on
survive
voluntary
labor,
donations,
organizations
theNGOs thatsucceed and thriveare thosethathave a strong
underpaidstaff,
and publicopinion."
membership,
messagecapable ofmobilizingtheirstaff,
The organizationsin the networkthathave been mostimportantforhuman
rightsin Latin America include the UN Commissionon Human Rights,the
Inter-AmericanCommissionon Human Rights(IACHR), AmnestyInternational(Al), AmericasWatch,theWashingtonOfficeon LatinAmerica,domesticNGOs liketheMothersofthePlaza de Mayo inArgentinaand theAcademy
of Human Rightsin Mexico,and the Ford Foundation,as well as foundations
and domestichumanrightsNGOs.
based in Europe thatfundinternational
To have a strongnetwork,it musthave a certainsize and density.In other
words,enoughactorsmustexistand be connectedin orderto speak meaningfullyof a network.Much of the historyof the emergenceof the humanrights
and linkingoftheorganizationsin
growth,
networkis thestoryofthefounding,
the network.Groups in a networkshare values and frequentlyexchange
and services.'2The sharedvalues thatbindtheactorsin thehuman
information
rightsnetworkare embodied in internationalhumanrightslaw, especiallyin
the UniversalDeclarationof Human Rights.This bodyof law servesto justify
actionsand providesa commonlanguageto makeargumentsand proceduresto
amongactorsin the networkreveals
advance claims.The flowof information
an extremely
amongthesegroups.In mostcases,
denseweb ofinterconnections
throughtheexchangeofreports,
thisflowofinformation
takesplace informally
telephonecalls, and attendanceat conferencesand meetings.In othercases,
11. Mansbridgehas made a similarpoint discussinggroupsthatorganizedaround the Equal
RightsAmendmentdebate in the United States. See Jane J. Mansbridge,Wy WeLost theERA
of ChicagoPress,1986),p. 3.
(Chicago: University
12. Organizationtheoryuses a varietyof ways to thinkabout relationsamong organizations.
Mitchellrefersto threetypesof contentof relations:(1) communicative
content,or thepassingof
information
fromone organizationto another,(2) exchangecontent,and (3) normativecontent.
See J. Clyde Mitchell,"Networks,Norms,and Institutions,"in JeremyBoissevain and J. Clyde
Mitchell,eds. NetworkAnalysis
(The Hague: Mouton,1973),pp. 2-35. To documenttheselinkages,
researchersinvestigatethe exchange of resources,communicationamong staff,friendshipor
kinshipties,and overlappingboards of directorsamongorganizations.See Aldrichand Whetten,
"Organization-sets,
Action-sets,and Networks,"p. 391.

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Human rights 417


theconnectionsare formalized,as whenNGOs withofficialconsultativestatus
withIGOs presentreportsto thoseorganizations.A thirdtypeof interconnectionamongtheorganizationsis theflowoffundsand services.This is especially
the case of relationsamongfoundationsand NGOs, but some NGOs also may
provideservicessuch as trainingforotherNGOs in thenetwork.As a resultof
this exchangeof informationand services,of flowsof funds,and of shared
worktogetherin a constant
normsand goals,themembersoftheissue-network
manner.
butinformal,
uncoordinated,and nonhierarchical
humanrightsregimeshas been
oftheemergenceofinternational
The history
discussedat lengthelsewhereand does notneed to be repeatedhere.13Whatis
oftenmissed,however,is how NGOs helped spurstateactionat each stage in
In twoof the maininternational
the emergenceof the humanrightsregimes.14
precursorsto the human rightsissue-the movementforrespectforhuman
rightsduringarmed conflictand the campaignforthe abolitionof the slave
trade and slavery-NGOs broughtthe issue to publicattentionand promoted
internationalaction.15The Red Cross movementspearheaded the activities
A groupofNGOs, the
thatcreatedthelaw ofhumanrightsin armedconflict.16
League, led the campaignto protectthe rightsof those held in
Anti-slavery
slaveryand eventuallyto abolishslavery.The league helped persuade statesto
adopt the 1926conventionoutlawingslavery.17
Likewise,at the San Francisco conferenceat which the UN charterwas
drafted,NGOs playeda pivotalrole in securingthe inclusionof humanrights
language in the finalcharter.The initialbig power draftsof the UN Charter
NGOs representingchurches,trade
had hardlymentionedhuman rights.18
aided bythedelegationsofsome
ethnic
and
movements,
groups,
peace
unions,
ofthesmallercountries,"conducteda lobbyin favorofhumanrightsforwhich
there is no parallel in the historyof internationalrelations,and whichwas
13. See JackDonnelly,UniversalHuman Rightsin Theoryand Practice(Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell
UniversityPress, 1989), especiallythe table on pp. 224-25, for a summaryof the evolutionof
human rightsregimes and for an explanation of the differencesbetween declaratoryand
regimes.
enforcement
actionon humanrights
14. For a discussionof the role of NGOs in thebuildingof international
and U.S. foreignpolicy,see David Forsythe,Human Rightsand WorldPolitics,2d ed. (Lincoln:
of NebraskaPress,1989),pp. 83-101 and 127-59; and Lars Schoultz,HumanRightsand
University
Press,1981), pp.
UnitedStatesPolicyTowardLatinAmerica(Princeton,N.J.:PrincetonUniversity
74-93, 104-8,and 373-74.
15. David Weissbrodtand Teresa O'Toole, "The Developmentof InternationalHuman Rights
Declarationof
Law," in AmnestyInternationalU.S.A. Legal SupportNetwork,ed., The Universal
(New York:
International
theUnitedNationsandAmnesty
HumanRights,1948-1988:HumanRights,
HumanRightsand WorldPolitics,pp. 7-10.
AmnestyInternational,1988),pp. 17-33; and Forsythe,
politics,see David P. Forsythe,
16. For a discussionoftherole ofthe Red Cross in international
HumanitarianPolitics: The InternationalCommitteeof the Red Cross (Baltimore, Md.: Johns
"The InternationalCommitteeof the Red
Press,1977); and J.D. Armstrong,
HopkinsUniversity
39 (Autumn1985),pp. 615-42.
Organization
Cross and PoliticalPrisoners,"International
HumanRightsand WorldPolitics,pp. 7-9.
17. Forsythe,
18. Jacob Robinson,Human Rightsand FundamentalFreedomsin the Charterof the United
Nations(New York: InstituteofJewishAffairs,1946),p. 17.

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418 InternationalOrganization
largelyresponsibleforthe human rightsprovisionsof the Charter,"in John
Humphrey'swords.19
actors were central to the campaign against
Althoughnongovernmental
slaveryand to theworkof includinghumanrightslanguagein theUN Charter,
therewere relativelyfew actors and there
theywere not yet issue-networks:
were not the dense and constant flows of informationthat characterize
networks.In the 1970s,as the numberof humanrightsactorsincreasedand
these actorsconsciouslydevelopedlinkageswitheach other,the humanrights
emerged.Althoughinternationalhumanrightsnormsemerged
issue-network
out of theworldreactionto the Holocaust,these normswere subordinatedto
duringthe periodof the cold war. Withthe adventof detente
anticommunism
in the early 1970s, a more permissiveenvironmentwas created for the
considerationof humanrights,and the convergenceof some shockingcases of
In
humanrightsabuses,suchas in Chile and in Greece,movedworldopinion.20
in
the
organizations
reactionto these conditions,all typesof human rights
networkincreased in the 1970s,withthe expansionof NGOs, in particular,
givingimpetusto thegrowthofthenetworkas a whole.
International NGOs
Althoughsome humanrightsorganizationshave existedformanyyears,in
and increasedin diversity
the 1970sand 1980shumanrightsNGOs proliferated
(38 in 1950, 72 in 1960, 103 in 1970, 138 in 1980, and 275 in 1990).21This
explosion of NGOs is indicated not only by the increasingnumber of
organizationsbut also by the formationof coalitions and communications
In turn,these international
networksdesignedto linkthosegroupstogether.22
human rightsorganizationsdeveloped stronglinksto domestichuman rights
humanrightsviolations.This growthin
organizationsin countriesexperiencing
(Dobbs Ferry,
19. JohnP. Humphrey,Human Rightsand theUnitedNations:A GreatAdventure
N.Y.: TransnationalPublishers,1984), p. 13. Also see U.S. Departmentof State, The United
San Francisco,Califomia,April25 to June26,
on IntemationalOrganization,
Nations Conference
1945: SelectedDocuments(Washington,D.C.: U.S. GovernmentPrintingOffice,1946).
in
20. This discussionon whyhumanrightsgainedimportancein the 1970sis developedfurther
of Human Rights
KathrynSikkink,"The Power of PrincipledIdeas: The Originsand Continuity
Policies in the United States and WesternEurope," in Goldsteinand Keohane, Ideas and Foreign
Policy.
Society,was foundedin 1839,but
theAnti-slavery
21. The oldestofhumanrightsorganizations,
most internationalhuman rightsNGOs have emergedsince World War II. For a discussionof
NGOs in the area of human rights,see David Weissbrodt,"The Contributionof International
Organizationsto the Protectionof Human Rights,"in Meron,Human Rightsin
Nongovernmental
Law, pp. 403-38.
Intemational
22. Laurie S. Wisebergand HarryM. Scoble, "MonitoringHuman RightsViolations:The Role
of NongovernmentalOrganizations,"in Donald P. Kommers and Gilbert D. Loescher, eds.,
of Notre Dame Press,
Human Rightsand AmericanForeignPolicy(Notre Dame, Ind.: University
pp. 183-84. These pointsabout the growthand interconnec1979), pp. 179-208,and particularly
withdirectorsand
tionsof internationalhumanrightsNGOs were also emphasizedin interviews
humanrightsNGOs.
staffofninekeyinternational

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Human rights 419


human rightsorganizationsparallels a more general growthin international
NGOs in thepostwarperiod.23
Domestic NGOs
As opposed to the internationalNGOs, which work on human rights
violationsin othercountries,domesticNGOs focuson humanrightsviolations
in theirhome countries.Countriesand regionsdifferdramaticallyin termsof
thenumberand capabilityof theirdomestichumanrightsorganizations.Latin
America has more domestichumanrightsNGOs than do otherpartsof the
ThirdWorld.A 1981 directory
of organizationsconcernedwithhumanrights
and social justice in the developingworlddiscussed220 such organizationsin
Latin America,comparedwith145 in Asia and 123 in Africaand the Middle
East. An updatedlistingpublishedin 1990listsover550 humanrightsgroupsin
Latin America.Of all the countriesof Latin Americaand the Caribbean,only
Grenada does not have a domestichuman rightsorganization,while some
countrieshave fiftyto sixtysuch groups.24An internationaldemonstration
effectwas at workin LatinAmericaduringthe 1980sas theworkand successes
of the originalhuman rightsorganizationsin the region inspiredothersto
followtheirexample.
IGOs
Priorto 1948, no IGO dedicated to the issue of human rightsexisted.By
1990,twenty-seven
organizationsincludedhumanrightsas a significant
partof
their work.25These internationalorganizationsbecame the arenas where
NGOs came togetherand a focalpointforNGO work.The largerinternational
NGOs have UN consultativestatus.Such statuscomprisesthe formalproceand allowsthem
durelinkingIGOs to international
NGOs in theissue-network
to participatein thedebatesand activitiesoftheUN. BoththeUN Commission
on Human Rightsand the Subcommissionon the Protectionof Minorities,
23. Kjell Skjelsbaek, "The Growthof InternationalNongovernmentalOrganizationin the
TwentiethCentury,"International
Organization
25 (Summer1971),pp. 420-42.
Latin
24. The sources for the figuresare Human Rights Internet,Human RightsDirectory:
America,Africa,andAsia, eds. Laurie S. Wisebergand HarryM. Scoble (Washington,D.C.: Human
RightsInternet,1981); and Laurie S. Wiseberg,Guadalupe L6pez, and Sarah Meselson, eds.,
"Human RightsDirectory:LatinAmericaand theCaribbean,"special issue,HumanRightsInternet
Reporter
13 (January1990). By domesticgroup,I referto groupsoperatingin theirhome country.
Althoughthe definitionused by these directoriesis broaderthan in manydiscussionsof human
rightsgroups in Latin America,comparisonof the 1981 and 1990 figuresgives an idea of the
dramaticgrowthin the Latin American human rightsnetworkand the wide range of groups
the region.
workingon diversehumanrightsissuesthroughout
25. These figuresare based on information
coded fromUnion ofInternationalAssociations,ed.,
YearbookofInternational
Organizations:
1948 (Brussels:Union ofInternationalAssociations,1948);
and Union of InternationalAssociations, ed., Yearbookof InternationalOrganizations:1990
and
(Munich:K. G. Saur, 1990). Theyincludeonlyorganizationsand excludetreaties,conventions,
declarationsalso listedin theyearbooks.

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420 InternationalOrganization
whichwere set up afterWorld War II, became more dynamicin the 1970s
NGOs,
underthe influenceof thenew rulesand thepressuresof international
The Human
and some European governments.26
the Carter administration,
RightsCommitteebegan to functionafterthe InternationalCovenanton Civil
and PoliticalRightscame intolegal forceforadheringstatesin 1976,providing
yetanotherarena forhumanrightsdebate and activismin theUN system.27
The IACHR oftheOrganizationofAmericanStates(OAS), firstestablished
in 1959, was reorganized and strengthenedin 1979 when the American
Conventionon Human Rightsenteredintoforce.The reorganizedcommission
was able to playa moreimportantrole in thepromotionofhumanrightsin the
region,especiallyin itsinfluential1980 reporton humanrightsin Argentina.28
Foundations and funders
A handfulof privateand public foundationshave been active in funding
human rightsorganizations.The most importantU.S.-based foundationfor
Latin America has been the Ford Foundation,but a numberof European
fundersalso have playedkeyroles,especiallyEuropean churchfoundations.29
In additionto privatefoundations,officialdevelopmentassistanceagenciesin
Canada, theNetherlands,Scandinavia,and theUnitedStatesalso have funded
humanrightsNGOs.
Prior to 1975, large U.S. foundationshardlyever funded international
human rightswork.30From 1977 to 1987, U.S. foundationgrantsforhuman
rightswork grew dramatically,in terms of both the total number and,
especially,the absolute dollar amounts of grants. The Ford Foundation
accounts for much of this change, but a numberof other foundationsalso
redirectedtheirgivingtoward human rights(see Figure 1). Althoughnot
conreflectedin the figure,European foundationsalso became increasingly
26. Economic and Social Council resolutions1235 (passed in 1967) and 1503 (passed in 1970),
which authorized the commissionto review communicationsand investigatecomplaintsthat
appear to reveal a consistentpattern of gross violations of human rights,fundamentally
strengthened
theUN humanrightsmachinery.
27. The CovenantforCivil and Political Rightsand the CovenantforEconomic, Social, and
draftedby 1954butnot approvedbythe General Assemblyand
CulturalRightswere substantially
opened forsignatureuntil1966.The twocovenantsreachedtherequirednumberof adherentsfor
entryintolegal forcein 1976.
Commissionon Human Rights,Reporton
28. OrganizationofAmericanStates,Inter-American
(Washington,D.C.: OAS General Secretariat,1980).
theSituationofHumanRightsinArgentina
work,see PeterD. Bell, "The Ford Foundationas a
29. On theFord Foundation'sinternational
M.
TransnationalActor,"IntemationalOrganization25 (Summer 1971), pp. 465-78; and Jeffrey
Puryear,"Higher Education, Development Assistance, and Repressive Regimes," Studies in
Development17 (Summer1982),pp. 3-35.
Intemational
Comparative
30. The subjectof humanrightsdid not appear in the indexof major foundationgrantsin the
United States until1975; see The FoundationCenter,The FoundationGrantsIndex (New York:
The Foundation Center, 1975). Before this,a few human rightsgrantswere listed under the
subjectsof civilrightsor social sciences,but thesecompriseda smallportionof totalinternational
grants.

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Human rights 421

$17$16$15-

$14$13-

FordFoundation

SISX

$12

1@

All otherdonors

c $10$8
$$7-

$111
$ 5- 9'
$4$ 3$ 2$1
0

FIGURE

1.

197 78

80

8-2 '83

'84,

85

'86

81

'88

'89

190 lc91

humanrights
forintemational
grants
U.s. foundation
work,1977-91

Source.The FoundationCenter,TheFoundationGrantsIndex(New York: The Foundation


Center,all editions,1977-80),and Dialog, electronicdata base (New York: The Foundation
Center,all years,1981-91). The figureswere compiledfromall grantslistedundertheheadingof
of U.S.-based foundationsforeach year
"humanrights"and representthe totalcontributions
indicated.

This changein foundationfundinghelped support


cernedwithhumanrights.31
thegrowthin humanrightsNGOs in the 1970sand 1980s.
Foundationsdid not create organizationsor networks;theyonlyhelped to
existingorganizations.Foundationsare bynatureresponsive-they
strengthen
fund proposals fromfunctioningorganizationsbut rarelyinitiateprojects
themselves.Nevertheless,the move of a handfulof foundationsinto human
rightsfundinghelped humanrightsorganizationssustainthemselves,institutionalize,and grow.
Networksand governments
policy?In mostcases,
What is the relationshipof networksto government
to networkpressure
as
a
response
emerged
governmenthuman rightspolicy
For thisreason,itis very
on networkinformation.
and dependedfundamentally
to separate the independentinfluencesof governmentpolicy and
difficult
networkpressures. Networksoften work throughgovernmentsand other
powerfulactors to achieve theirgreatestimpact.Governmentpolicybodies
listsfifteen
European foundationswithhumanrights
FoundationDirectory
31. The International
as one of theirfundingpriorities.See H. V. Hodson, ed., The IntemationalFoundationDirectory
1991,5thed. (London: Europa Publications,1991).

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422 InternationalOrganization
For
provide arenas and points of leverage for the work of the network.32
groupto workactively
example,in theUnitedStates,theearliestgovernmental
on humanrightswas the House Subcommitteeon InternationalOrganizations
ofDonald Fraser,laterrenamedtheSubcommitteeon
underthechairmanship
Human Rights and InternationalOrganizations.Beginning in 1973, this
subcommitteeheld a series of hearingson human rightsabuses around the
worldthatput itin contactwithmanyhumanrightsadvocatesin thenetwork.33
in these
The primarywitnessesprovidinghumanrightsdata and information
of humanrightsNGOs. In its initialyears,
hearingswere the representatives
the Bureau of Human Rights and HumanitarianAffairsof the U.S. State
Department,formed during the Carter administration,maintained close
ofNGOs. In European countries,
contactswithand soughtout theinformation
pointsof influencewithinthe state centeredon Ministriesof ForeignAffairs
instituand DevelopmentCooperation.In some cases, European governments
tionalizedthe linkswithotherpartsof the network.Both the Dutch and the
Norwegianexecutives,forexample,initiatedhuman rightsadvisorycommitand
parliamentarians,
tees,whichincorporatedNGOs such as Al, ministries,
scholars.34
betweenthe networkand bureaucraticgroupswithin
Oftenthe interactions
but not congenial.The U.S. annual
were mutuallyreinforcing
governments
Because State
humanrightsreportsprovidea clear exampleofthatinteraction.
or undermineother
did notwantto offendforeignofficials
Departmentofficials
policygoals, theirearlyhumanrightsreportswere oftenweak. However,the
State Departmentreportsdid serveas a focal pointforhumanrightsgroups,
whichwere able to create annual public eventsby issuingresponsesto the
attractedpress coverageon human
The reportsand counterreports
reports.35
rights,and the critiquesof the State Departmentreportsheld the department
up to higher standards in its future reporting.Domestic human rights
organizationsin repressivecountriesin turnlearnedthattheycould indirectly
on
to change practicesby providinginformation
pressuretheirgovernments
in U.S. embassiesforinclusionin
humanrightsabuses to humanrightsofficers
reports.
theU.S. annual country-specific
32. This pointabout networkleverageon morepowerfulactorswas firstdevelopedbyMargaret
Keck and is elaborated in furtherdetail in MargaretKeck and KathrynSikkink,"International
and Human Rights,"paper presentedat the 17thcongressof
Issue Networksin the Environment
theLatin AmericanStudiesAssociation,Los Angeles,24-27 September1992.
33. InterviewwithJohnSalzberg,formerspecial consultanton humanrightsto theU.S. House
of RepresentativesCommitteeon ForeignRelations,Washington,D.C., April 1991.Althoughthe
ithas continuedto holdhearingson
committeehas been less activeundersubsequentchairpersons,
humanrightsabuses in countriesaroundtheworld.
of Human
Small State:Potentialsand Limitations
34. JanEgeland, ImpotentSuperpower-Potent
Press,
RightsObjectivesin theForeignPoliciesof theU.S. and Norway(Oslo: NorwegianUniversity
1988),p. 193,fn.
35. See, forexample,Human RightsWatch and the LawyersCommitteeforHuman Rights,
Reportson Human RightsPracticesfor 1987
of State's Country
Critique:Reviewof theDepartment
(New York: Human RightsWatch and the LawyersCommitteeforHuman Rights,June 1988).

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Human rights 423


the mostpowerfuland the least
The linkto governmentis simultaneously
of the
The effectiveness
dependable aspect of the workof the issue-network.
When network
networkoftendependson engagingsupportfromgovernments.
through
contactswith a governmentare informaland not institutionalized
NGO advisorycommittees,changingpersonnelcan block access betweenthe
networkand thegovernment.
The sectionabove documentsdramaticgrowthin each of the parts of the
human rightsnetworkin the 1970s and 1980s. This growthalone poses
problems to state sovereignty,since each new human rightsorganization
wherebyinternational
embodies a reconceptualizedview of state sovereignty
scrutinyof domestichuman rightspracticesis not only legitimatebut also
necessary.To demonstratethe impactof the networkin practice,however,we
ofthesepressuresin specificcases.
need to look at theeffectiveness

Argentina
Even before the militarycoup of March 1976, internationalhuman rights
verydecisionto use the
pressuresalreadyinfluencedthe Argentinemilitary's
political
opponentsrather
practiceof so-called disappearingtheirperceived
The
them
publicly.36 Argentinemilitary
than imprisoningthemor executing
from
the
international
reactionto the humanrights
believedtheyhad learned
When
the Chilean military
after
the
Chilean
coup.
abuses that occurred
initiallyexecutedand imprisonedlarge numbersof people, the uproarled to
the internationalisolation of the Pinochet regime.The Argentinemilitary
decided instead to secretlykidnap, detain, and execute its victims,while
hoped
denyinganyknowledgeoftheirwhereabouts.Bythismeans,themilitary
to diffuseinternationalcondemnationand maintaina moderateinternational
image.37
Although this method initiallysucceeded in muting the international
responseto the coup, humanrightsgroupseventuallywere able to document
36. This sectiondrawsupon some materialfroman earlierwork;see Martinand Sikkink,"U.S.
Policyand Human Rightsin Argentinaand Guatemala,1973-1980."
37. Mignone recalls, "One phrase I heard repeatedlyin that period fromthe mouths of
Generals, Colonels, Admirals,and Brigadierswas, 'we aren't going to do it like Franco and
Pinochetwho executedpeople publicly,because theneven thePope willbe askingus notto do it.' "
(Human rightsand society:the
See EmilioMignone,Derechoshumanosysociedad:el caso argentino
Argentinecase) (Buenos Aires: Ediciones del PensamientoNacional and Centro de Estudios
Legales y Sociales, 1991), p. 66. This process of perverselearningis also discussed in Claudio
Uriarte,AlmiranteCero:BiografiaNo Autorizadade EmilioEduardo Massera (AdmiralZero: The
unauthorizedbiographyof Emilio Eduardo Massera) (Buenos Aires: Planeta, 1992),p. 97; and in
Carlos H. Acufia and Catalina Smulovitz,"Ajustando las FF.AA. a la Democracia: Exitos,
Fracasos, y Ambiguidadesde las Experienciasdel Cono Sur" (Adjustingthe armed forcesto
democracy:Successes, failures,and ambiguitiesof the experiencesof the southerncone), paper
justice,and societyin Latin America,organizedbythe
presentedat a workshopon humanrights,
Social Science ResearchCouncil,Buenos Aires,22-24 October 1992,p. 4.

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424 InternationalOrganization
and condemnthe new formsof repressivepractices.Al and groupsstaffedby
Argentinepoliticalexilesfirstbroughtthe humanrightssituationin Argentina
to world attentionafterthe coup in 1976. To counteractthe risingtide of
the Argentinejunta decided to inviteAl foran
internationalpublic criticism,
coup,
ofthemilitary
on-sitevisitin 1976.In March1977,on thefirstanniversary
Al publishedthe reporton its visit,a well-documenteddenunciationof the
abuses of the regimewithemphasison the problemof the disappeared. Al
estimatedthat the regimehad taken six thousand political prisoners,most
withoutcharges,and had abductedbetweentwo thousandand ten thousand
people. The Al reporthelped demonstratethatthe disappearanceswere part
of a concerted governmentpolicy by which the militaryand the police
kidnappedperceivedopponents,took themto secretdetentioncenterswhere
theytortured,interrogated,and killed them,and secretlydisposed of their
bodies.38When Al won the Nobel Peace Prize later that same year, its
its denunciationsof the Argenreputationwas enhanced,furtherlegitimizing
tineregime.
In response to increasingdisseminationof informationon human rights
abuses in Argentina,a number of governments,most notablythe Carter
denouncedthe
but also the Frenchand Swedishgovernments,
administration
rightsviolationsof the Argentinejunta. Althoughthe Argentinegovernment
in their
claimed thatsuch statementsconstitutedunacceptableinterventions
theactionsofU.S. and
internalaffairsand a violationofArgentinesovereignty,
European officialsindicatethattheydid not accept Argentineclaims.In 1977,
reduced the planned level of militaryaid forArgentina
the U.S. government
due to human rightsabuses. Later, Congress passed a bill eliminatingall
militaryassistance to Argentina,which went into effecton 30 September
1978.39A numberof high-levelU.S. delegationsmetwiththejunta members
duringthisperiodto discusshumanrights.
Early U.S. action on Argentinawas based primarilyon the human rights
received
documentationprovidedbyAl and otherNGOs, not on information
For
a 1977
or
the
State
during
example,
the
Department.40
through embassy
carried
a
list
of
to
Vance
people
disappeared
of
State
Cyrus
visit,Secretary
of
The
list
had
been
prepared
by
to
members
the
junta.
Argentine
present
Missionto Argentina(London:
38. AmnestyInternational,Reportof an AmnestyInternational
AmnestyInternationalPublications,March 1977).
39. CongressionalResearch Service,ForeignAffairsand National Defense Division,Human
(1977-1978),
Rightsand U.S. ForeignAssistance:Experiencesand Issues in PolicyImplementation
report prepared for U.S. Senate Committeeon Foreign Relations, 96th Congress, 1st sess.
(Washington,D.C.: U.S. GovernmentPrintingOffice,November,1979),p. 106.
40. Afterthe coup in 1976,Argentinepoliticalexilesset up branchesof the ArgentineHuman
Rights Commissionin Geneva, Mexico City,Paris, Rome, and Washington,D.C. Two of its
memberstestifiedon human rightsabuses in Argentinaduringhearingsin the U.S. House
Subcommitteeon Human Rightsand InternationalOrganizationin October 1976.See lain Guest,
Behind theDisappearances:Argentina'sDirtyWarAgainstHuman Rightsand the UnitedNations
of PennsylvaniaPress,1990),pp. 66-67.
(Philadelphia:University

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Human rights 425


humanrightsNGOs in the United States.41When AssistantSecretaryof State
forHumanitarianAffairsand Human RightsPatriciaDerian metwithAdmiral
Emilio Massera, a memberof the Argentinejunta, duringa visitin 1977, she
discussed use of tortureby the navy.When Massera denied such practices,
map of a secretdetention
Derian told him that she had seen a rudimentary
centerin the NavyMechanical School wherethe meetingwas beingheld. She
asked himwhetherit was possible that under theirfeet someone was being
was NGOs, especiallythe
tortured.One ofDerian's keysourcesofinformation
duringhervisitsto
familiesof the disappeared,withwhomshe metfrequently
Buenos Aires.42
By 1977-78,domestichumanrightsorganizationswithinArgentinabegan to
externalcontacts.Membersof domestichuman
formand develop significant
rightsorganizationslikethe Mothersof the Plaza de Mayo,the Grandmothers
ofthePlaza de Mayo,and thePermanentAssemblyforHuman Rightstraveled
frequently
to the United States and to Europe, where theymetwithhuman
rightsorganizations,talked to the press,and met withparliamentariansand
governmentofficials.These groupssoughtexternalcontactsto publicize the
humanrightssituation,to fundtheiractivities,and to help protectthemselves
againstfurtherrepressionby theirgovernment.They were a crucial link in
to spurthe interestsand concernof
providingdocumentationand information
U.S. and European policymakers.Much of the fundingfordomestichuman
rights organizationsin Argentina came from European and U.S.-based
foundations.43
If we examinesome key eventsthat servedto keep the case of Argentine
the impactof
humanrightsin the mindsof U.S. and European policymakers,
these transnationallinkageson policybecomes apparent.In 1979,the Argentine authoritiesreleased JacoboTimerman,whose powerfulmemoirdetailing
his disappearance and tortureby the Argentinemilitaryhad an important
Human rightsorganizations,membersof the
impacton U.S. policymakers.44
and U.S. journalistshelped make Timerman'scase a
U.S. Jewishcommunity,
National Security
41. InterviewwithRobertPastor,formerdirectorof Latin AmericanAffairs,
Council,1977-81,Wianno,Mass., 28 June1990.
42. TestimonygivenbyPatriciaDerian to theNationalCriminalAppeals Courtin Buenos Aires
duringthe trials of junta members:"Massera sonrio y me dijo: 'Sabe que pas6 con Poncio
Pilatos?' " ("Massera smiledat me and said, 'Do you knowwhathappened to PontiusPilate?' ")
See Diario del Juicio,18 June1985,p. 3, and Guest,BehindtheDisappearances,pp. 161-63. Later
the reportof the ArgentineNational Commissionof the Disappeared confirmedthat the Navy
MechanicalSchool was one ofthe morenotorioussecrettortureand detentioncenters;see Nunca
Mas: TheReportoftheArgentine
NationalCommission
fortheDisappeared(New York: FarrarStraus
Giroux,1986),pp. 79-84.
43. For example,the Mothersof the Plaza de Mayo receivedgrantsfromDutch churchesand
the NorwegianParliament,and the Ford Foundationprovidedfundsforthe CenterforLegal and
Social Studiesand theAbuelas de la Plaza de Mayo (GrandmothersofthePlaza de Mayo).
A Number(New York: Random
a Name, Cell Without
44. JacoboTimerman,PrisonerWithout
House, 1981).

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426 InternationalOrganization
cause celebre in U.S. policy circles. In 1980, the Nobel Peace Prize was
awardedto ArgentinehumanrightsactivistAdolfoPerez Esquivel. Peace and
humanrightsgroupsin the United States and Europe helped sponsorPerez
Esquivel's speakingtourto the United Statesexactlyat the same timethatthe
OAS was consideringthe IACHR reporton Argentinaand the U.S. Congress
was consideringtheend ofthe armsembargoto Argentina.
concernedabout internawas extremely
government
The Argentinemilitary
tional human rightscondemnationsand pressures.It adopted a series of
to a
varyingresponsesto internationalpressures,each roughlycorresponding
Theyfirsttried
stageon the continuumof the erosionof sovereignty.
different
concernoverhumanrightsin Argentina,
ofinternational
to denythelegitimacy
itsmemberswerepartof a
to discreditthehumanrightsnetworkbysuggesting
campaign,and to mobilizenationalistpublicopinion
subversiveanti-Argentine
in internalaffairs.When thatapproach
againstwhatit definedas interference
protest,thejunta triedto placate international
was unable to stillinternational
and domesticoppositionbycooperatingwithsome partsof the networkwhile
manyrepressivepractices.The thirdstageinvolved
at thesame timecontinuing
in repressivepracticesin responseto internamakingconcreteimprovements
tional and domesticpressures.Althoughthese stagesprogressedin a roughly
in part
chronologicalmanner,therewas continualoverlap and backtracking,
because the Argentinemilitarygovernmentwas not a unitaryactor but a
coalition of differentfactions with differentattitudes about the proper
pressures.
responseto international
From 1976 to 1978, the Argentinemilitarypursued the firststrategyof
denyingthe legitimacyof internationalconcernover humanrightsin Argentina.At the same time,it took actionsthatappear to contradictthisstrategy,
thevisitof the Al missionto Argentinain 1976. The failureof
like permitting
of
thestrategy
pointofview,appeared to reaffirm
theAl visit,fromthemilitary
was mostobvious
resistanceand denialofhumanrightspressures.This strategy
at the UN, where the Argentinegovernmenttried everymeans to silence
internationalcondemnationin the UN Commissionon Human Rights.IroniArgentineregimefounda diplomaticallyin the
callytherabidlyanticommunist
SovietUnion, an importanttradingpartnerforArgentinewheat,and the two
countriesworkedtogetherto blockUN considerationof the Argentinehuman
thisblockagebycreatingthe
Concernedstatescircumvented
rightssituation.45
UN WorkingGroup on Disappearances in 1980 to draw attentionto the
practiceof disappearancesin Argentinaand elsewherein the world.Human
rightsNGOs contributedto the debates over human rightsat the United
delegations,and pursulobbyinggovernment
Nations,providinginformation,
delegations.
ingjointstrategieswithsympathetic
By 1978, however,the Argentinegovernmentrecognizedthat the greatest
variable"and thatsomethinghad
weaknessofitsregimewas the"international
45. Guest,BehindtheDisappearances,pp. 118-19 and 182-83.

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Human rights 427

5,000

4,105

t_ ~~~~~~~~~~3,098

3,000-

2,000-

;~~~~~~

1,000-96

1971 172
FIGURE

2.

K7

'74

75

76~7~8'9

81'8~2

1971-83
NumberofdisappearancesinArgentina,

Source.Annexto the reportNunca Mas (Never again), publishedbythe NationalCommissionon


Disappeared People, 1984.

in theUnitedStates
to be done to improveitsinternational
image,particularly

this
andeconomicaid floWS.46To confront
andEurope,andtorestoremilitary

situation,the Argentinegovernmentdecided to invitethe IACHR for an


on-sitevisit to Argentina,in exchange for a U.S. commitmentto release
Bank fundsand improveU.S.-Argentinerelations.4In 1978,
Export-Import
the human rightssituationin Argentinaimprovedsignificantly;
especially
was the decline in the practiceof involuntary
disappearance for
noteworthy
whichtheArgentineregimehad gainedinternational
Figure2 shows
notoriety.
that althoughthe numberof disappearances reached a peak in 1976, the
practiceof disappearanceas a tool of statepolicywas not curtaileduntilafter
1978,when international
pressuresbecame moreintenseand the government
variableseriouSly.48
began to taketheinternational
thusmoved along the continuumfrom
The Argentinemilitarygovernment
initial rejection of internationalhuman rightsinterventionsto cosmetic
46. Carta Politica,a news magazine consideredto be veryclose to the militarygovernment,
pressureson Argentinacontinuedto increase,citing
commentedin August1978thatinternational
the examplesof the denial of Export-ImportBank creditsto Argentinaforhumanrightsreasons
and the U.S. militaryaid ban, and concluded that "the principalproblemfacingthe Argentine
State has now become the internationalsiege (cercointernacional)."See "Cuadro de Situacion"
(DescriptionoftheSituation),CartaPolitica,no. 57, August1978,p. 8.
47. InterviewswithformerVice PresidentWalterMondale, Minneapolis,Minn.,20 June1989,
and Ricardo Yofre,formerpoliticaladvisorto PresidentJorgeVidela, Buenos Aires, 1 August
1990.
48. See Asamblea Permanentepor los Derechos Humanos,Las Cifrasde la GuerraSucia (The
numbersof the dirtywar) (Buenos Aires: Asamblea Permanentepor los Derechos Humanos,
August1988),pp. 26-32.

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428 InternationalOrganization
cooperation with the human rightsnetwork,and eventuallyto concrete
improvementsin its human rightspractices in response to international
commissionand discovered
pressures.Once it had invitedthe Inter-American
moved
thatthecommissioncould notbe co-optedor confused,thegovernment
to end the practice of disappearance,to release political prisoners,and to
restoresome semblanceof politicalparticipation.Full restorationof human
rightsin Argentinadid not come untilafterthe Malvinas/FalklandsWar and
the transitionto democracyin 1983,but after1980 theworstabuses had been
curtailed.

Mexico
thanthat
The politicaland humanrightssituationin Mexicowas quitedifferent
thathad been under
in Argentina.Mexico had an elected civiliangovernment
the controlof the officialpoliticalparty,the InstitutionalizedRevolutionary
Party(PRI) sincethepartywas formedin 1929.Althoughmassiveabuses ofthe
kindthatoccurredin Argentinaafterthe coup were not the case in Mexico,
endemichumanrightsabuses were common.
The mostseriousepisode of humanrightsviolationsin Mexico occurredin
October1968,whenarmytroopsopened fireon a peacefulstudentdemonstration in one of the centralplazas in Mexico City.The governmentofficially
admittedforty-three
deaths,but knowledgeableobserverssuggestthatat least
three hundredto fivehundredpeople were killed,over two thousandwere
hundredto twothousandpeople weretakenprisoner.49
wounded,and fifteen
the massacre attractedverylittleinternationalcondemnation
Surprisingly,
or attention.The InternationalOlympicCommittee,whichwas to hold the
OlympicGames in Mexico Cityonlyten dayslater,confirmedthatthe games
of solidarityin a
would go on as planned.Aside fromstudentdemonstrations
thearrest
numberofcities,a telegramfromPEN Club Internationalprotesting
of variousauthors,and a telegramfroma groupof Frenchintellectuals,there
Why
action.50
was no international
condemnationoftheMexicangovernment's
of
Tiananmen
massacre,
not
Square
this
a
1968
version
China's
1989
did
event,
response?One keypartof the answerto thisquestion
inspirean international
is that the internationalhuman rightsnetwork,and the human rights
consciousnessand practicesthatit created,did not yetexistin 1968. Al later
adopted as prisonersof conscience some of the political prisonerswho
49. These figuresare taken fromMichael C. Meyer and WilliamL. Sherman,The Courseof
Mexican History,4th ed. (Oxford: Oxford UniversityPress, 1991), p. 669; from Amnesty
International,
AnnualReport1968-69 (London: AmnestyInternationalPublications,1969), p. 12;
withMexicanhumanrightsactivists.
and frominterviews
50. Ramon Ramirez, El MovimientoEstudiantilde Mexico: Julio-Diciembre1968, Tomo 2,
Documentos(The Mexican studentmovement:July-December1968,vol. 2, Documents) (Mexico
City:Ediciones Era, 1969).

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Human rights 429


remainedinjail afterthemassacre,butAl was at thattimea smallorganization
withouttheresourcesto documentor reporton themassacreor to issue urgent
actions,as itwouldtoday.Few oftheothergroupsthatwouldlaterbecomepart
ofthenetworkevenexisted.Because therewas no credibleindependentsource
the Mexican governmentwas able to control
of human rightsinformation,
low casualtyfigureswere
information
about the event,and the government's
almostuniversally
accepted.5'
arguedthatitsinternalaffairswerenotlegitimate
The Mexicangovernment
used the same argument
The Argentinemilitary
concernsof othercountries.52
eightyearslater;but in 1969,the argumentthathumanrightspracticeswere
legitimately
withinthedomesticjurisdictionofa statewas muchmoreaccepted
thanthesame argumentwas in 1977.
community
bytheinternational
Althoughan episode with violationsof this magnitudedid not recur in
Mexico,humanrightsabuses in Mexico continuedduringthe 1970sand 1980s.
fivehundred
Accordingto Mexicanhumanrightsorganizations,approximately
people disappeared in Mexico in the 1970s, many in the context of a
counterinsurgency
campaign.53Torturewas routinelyused to extractconfessionsfrombothcommonand politicalprisoners,prisonconditionswere often
abysmal,and electoral fraud and press censorshipwere commonplace.54In
spite of this record,virtuallyno internationalattentionwas directedto the
Mexicanhumanrightssituationin the 1970sand early1980s.The international
humanrightsnetworkhad come intoexistencebythemid-1970s,and yetit did
not turn its attentionto Mexico. The more serious violations in Central
Americaand theSouthernCone occupiedall theattentionofthenetwork.The
existenceof a civilian elected government,Mexico's progressivestance on
internationalhuman rights(it became, for example, a haven for political
refugeesfromPinochet'sChile and latera firmcriticofhumanrightsviolations
Post, and Newsweekreferredto deaths rangingfrom
51. The New YorkTimes,the Washington
one hundredto fivehundredwounded,which
people and fromapproximately
twentyto forty-nine
"Deaths Put at 49 in MexicanClash,"
figures.See Paul L. Montgomery,
reflectedthe government
The New York Times,4 October 1969, p. Al; Gladys Delmas, "Troops' Show of Force Stuns
Post,4 October 1968,p. A3; and "Mexico: NightofSadness,"Newsweek,14
Mexicans,"Washington
hospital,which
October1968,pp. 45-48. Because thedead and woundedweretakento themilitary
was closed to reporters,
itwas difficult
to getindependentestimatesofdeaths.
Group,heldfivemonths
52. At theConferenceoftheMexico-UnitedStatesInterparliamentary
thatno State
afterthemassacre,thechairpersonoftheMexicandelegationstated:"Mexico affirms
in theaffairsofanotherState."
or indirectly,
has therightto interveneforwhateverreason,directly
See address by Deputy Luis Farias, chairmanof the Mexican Delegation to the Mexico-United
of theMexico-UnitedStates
Group, in Reportof theNinthConference
States Interparliamentary
Mexico,April1969 (Washington,D.C.: U.S. Government
Interparliamentary
Group,Aguascalientes,
PrintingOffice,1969),p. 8.
53. Committeein Defense of Prisoners,the Persecuted,Disappeared Persons, and Political
Exiles, "Diez Afios de Lucha por la Libertad" (Ten years of struggleforfreedom),as cited in
(New York: Human RightsWatch,
AmericasWatch,HumanRightsinMexico:A PolicyofImpunity
June1990),p. 35.
54. AmericasWatch,HumanRightsinMexico,p. 1.

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430 InternationalOrganization
in El Salvador), and the absence of Mexican humanrightsorganizationskept
Mexico frombecominga concernofthenetwork.
Mexico had takena positionof firmrhetoricalsupportforthe humanrights
of internationalorganizationsand cultivatedits imageas a defenderof
efforts
human rights.In 1988, the Mexican delegate to the UN Human Rights
multilat"Our country'sadhesionto themostimportant
Commissionaffirmed,
entails a permanentdouble commitment:to
eral human rightsinstruments
and to contributeto theirobservance
preservetheirfullprotectioninternally,
thatthe internationalcommunity
in the worldwithinthe judicial framework
however,thatthe UN mandatewas to
has established."He wenton to clarify,
violationsof rightswheredomesticlegal
look intoonlymassiveand systematic
Mexico's verbal supportfor internationalhuman
recourse is inoperative.55
role in the
rightsnormsand its acceptance of the internationalcommunity's
supervisionof humanrightspracticeswere coupled witha failureto addressa
patternof domestichumanrightsviolations.
This situationbegan to change by the late 1980s, when human rights
consciousnessbegan to penetrateMexican civil society.In 1984, only four
humanrightsNGOs existedin Mexico,sevenyearslatertherewere sixty,and
by 1993 therewere over two hundredindependenthumanrightsmonitoring
and advocacyNGOs. Internationalattentionhelped create the politicalspace
A keyturning
pointcame whena group
withinwhichthisgrowthwas possible.56
of prestigiousMexican intellectuals,activists,and politicians set up the
Mexican AcademyforHuman Rightsin 1984.The academyfocusedattention
and
on human rightsissues in Mexico, trained human rightspractitioners,
fosteredresearchand educationon humanrights.The academywas explicitly
ratherthan an activistgroup,in hope of
designedas an academic institution
the
openingspace forthe humanrightsdebate in Mexico withoutconfronting
on specificissues.57The academyreceivedearlyand strongsupport
government
fromthe Ford Foundation,whichprovidedthe bulk of its fundingduringits
firstfiveyears.58The 1985 earthquake in Mexico City gave impetusto the
increasingconcernwithhumanrights.The discoveryof the bodies of several
prisonersshowingsignsof tortureduringthe excavationof the ruinsof the
headquartersof the officeof the Federal DistrictAttorneyGeneral stirred
was paralyzedin its
nationaloutrage.59
Second,whenthe Mexicangovernment
response to the earthquake,civil societyorganizedand internationalNGOs
55. "Statementbythe Chiefof the MexicanDelegation,Mr. Claude Heller,on theme12 of the
agenda in the 44th period of session of the Commissionof Human Rights," mimeograph,
CommissionofHuman Rights,Geneva,8 March 1988 (translationbyauthor).
Democracy:GrassrootsMovements,
56. JonathanFox and Luis Hernandez,"Mexico's Difficult
17 (Spring 1992), pp. 184-85; and Human Rights
NGOs, and Local Government,"Alternatives
Watch,HumanRightsWatchWorldReport(New York: Human RightsWatch,1993),p. 131.
57. InterviewwithRodolfoStavenhagen,foundingmemberoftheMexicanAcademyofHuman
Rights,Buenos Aires,26 October 1992.
58. This includedan initialtwo-yeargrantof $150,000and a follow-upgrantof $375,000.
59. AmericasWatch,HumanRightsinMexico,pp. 9-10.

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Human rights 431


and funderssteppedin to clean up. This collaborationbetweengroupsin civil
societyand international
NGOs brokedownold assumptionsin Mexico thatall
must
be
channeled throughthe state and created new
political activity
confidencein thecapacityoftheNGO sector.60
A third stage began when the internationalhuman rightsNGOs first
addressedthe Mexicanhumanrightssituation.Withthewave of redemocratization in the hemisphere,humanrightshad improvedin manycountriesthat
previouslyhad been targetsof thenetwork.The networkwas now able to turn
itsattentionto the moreambiguoussituationsof endemicviolationsof human
rightsunderformally
electedgovernments.
The firstreportsbyan international
humanrightsNGO came in 1984 and 1986 whenAmericasWatch released a
reporton Mexico's treatmentof Guatemalanrefugeesand Al issueditsreport
on ruralviolence in Mexico.61When Al researchersfirstvisitedMexico, they
foundno human rightsofficialin the governmentor human rightsNGO to
contact.AlthoughthetworeportsupsettheMexicangovernment
because they
breacheditscultivatedimageand identityas a defenderof humanrights,they
humanrightspractices.62
did notlead to changinggovernment
Human rightspracticesdid not improveuntilafter1988,when a different
domesticand international
politicalcontextmade humanrightsa moresalient
issue. The splitof the rulingparty,PRI, beforethe 1988 presidentialelection
led to theformationof a potentpoliticalchallengefromthe leftin theformof
the Partyof the DemocraticRevolution(PRD) led byCuauhtemocCardenas.
In 1990,Mexico initiateddiscussionswithCanada and theUnitedStatesovera
freetradeagreement.Both of these situationsmade the Mexicangovernment
moresensitiveto chargesof humanrightsviolations.
Americas Watch issued a seminal reporton human rightsconditionsin
Mexico in 1990. The introduction
to thisreportbegins:"More oftenthannot,
Mexico is overlooked when lists of countries that violate internationally
recognizedhumanrightsare compiled.That thisis so is more a testamentto
the Mexican government'scarefulcultivationof its pro-humanrightsimage
than its care to ensure that individualhuman rightsare respected."63The
ofindividualsby
reportgoes on to documentkillings,
torture,and mistreatment
the police during criminalinvestigations;disappearances; election-related
violence;violence related to land disputes;abuses directedagainstindependent unions; and violationsof freedomof the press-abuses that the report
argues have been prevalentforyears,and have become an institutionalized
partof Mexican society.The AmericasWatch reportreceivedcoveragein the
60. Interviewswith Rodolfo Stavenhagen,26 October 1992, and with ChristopherWelna,
formerprogramofficer,
Ford FoundationofficeforMexico and CentralAmerica,8 October 1992.
inMexico:1980-1984(New York:Human Rights
61. See AmericasWatch,GuatemalanRefugees
Watch, September 1984); and AmnestyInternational,Mexico: Human Rightsin Rural Areas
(London: AmnestyInternationalPublications,1986),respectively.
62. InterviewwithSebastian Brett,AmnestyInternationalresearcheron Mexico, 1983-1987,
Santiago,Chile,3 November1992.
63. AmericasWatch,HumanRightsinMexico,p. 1.

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432 InternationalOrganization
U.S. and Mexican press and attractedsignificantattentionin Washington,
D.C., wherethe initialnegotiationsforthe freetrade agreementwere under
way.
Until 1990,the U.S. Congresshad held no hearingson the generalhuman
rightssituationin Mexico. Over the years,Congresshad expressedconcern
of U.S. prisonersheld in Mexican prisonsbut had not
about the mistreatment
broadened its focusto look at Mexico's treatmentof its own citizens.Yet in
September 1990, only a few monthsafterthe Americas Watch reportwas
issued,the Subcommitteeon Human Rightsand InternationalOrganizations
and the Subcommitteeon Western Hemisphere Affairsof the House of
Representativesheld hearingson human rightsin Mexico. In addition to
fromthe State Department,these two subcommitteesheard testitestimony
monyfromAl and AmericasWatch.64
The IACHR did not consideradmissibleanyMexican cases until1989-90,
whenit tookon threeMexicancases. All threecases, broughtbymembersof a
major oppositionparty,the National Action Party(PAN), allege that PRI
In response to these cases, the Mexican
committedelectoral irregularities.
governmentadopted a rigidpositionthat a decision of a domesticelectoral
jurisdiction"and thatifa
body "is not and cannotbe subjectto international
withrespectto the
to
international
to
itself
jurisdiction
submit
"State agreed
electionof its politicalbodies, a Statewouldcease to be sovereign"and finally
that "any conclusion issued by the Commissionon the legitimacyof the
accordingto the
electoralprocess ... would constitutean act of intervention,
set forthin Article18 oftheCharter."65
definition
of
The IACHR respondedto each oftheseclaims,assertingtheadmissibility
the complaintsand the competenceof thecommissionto decide issues related
to elections,sincetheAmericanConventionon Human Rightsguaranteesthe
rightto vote and be elected. The commissionturnedto various sources to
about itssovereignrights:the
interpretthe claimsof the Mexicangovernment
embodied in the human rightstreaties,the Mexican governunderstandings
of these treaties,its failureto expressreservationsat that
ment'sratification
and
pointwithregardto the issue of elections,and the sharedunderstandings
practicesof otherstatesin the regionas indicatedbytheirstatementsor lack
thereof.The commissionconcludedthatthe Mexicanpositionwas unfounded,
reformitsinternalelectoral
and itrecommendedthattheMexicangovernment
This episode
law to make effectivethe political rightsof the convention.66
64. U.S. Congress,House Committeeon Foreign Affairs,CurrentDevelopmentsin Mexico:
and on Western
Organizations
on Human Rightsand International
HearingBeforetheSubcommittees
1990, 101stCongress,2d sess.
12 September
on ForeignAffairs,
oftheCommittee
Affairs
Hemisphere
(Washington,D.C.: U.S. GovernmentPrintingOffice,1990),pp. 1-97.
Commissionon Human Rights1989-1990
65. OAS, Annual Report of the Inter-American
(Washington,D.C.: OAS General Secretariat,1990),pp. 103-5,emphasisadded.
66. Ibid,pp. 106-23.

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Human rights 433


as a set of shared understandings
underscoresthe importanceof sovereignty
and practicesand the mannerin whichthe previousactionsof a state create
precedentsthat constrainits later actions and statements.In spite of its
its electoral
reformulating
is currently
the Mexican government
protestations,
laws.
In large part as a response to these internationalnetworkpressures,the
Mexican governmentcreated the National Commissionon Human Rightsin
was concernedthatMexico mightbe
June1990.67The Salinas administration
and Congress
fromboththeU.S. administration
subjectto heightenedscrutiny
in the contextof futurefree trade negotiationsand subsequent ratification
debates.68Creating the National Commission on Human Rights served
preemptivelyto defuse the issue by making it appear that the Mexican
had itshumanrightsproblemundercontrol.
government
pressureis
That Mexico's nationalcommissionis a responseto international
underscoredby the timingof its creationand the factthatits reportsare now
in Spanishand Englishand shippedvia international
publishedsimultaneously
of keyU.S. humanrightsorganizations.Three
expressmail to representatives
eventsconvergedshortlybefore the creationof the national commission.A
leadinghumanrightsactivist,NormaCorona Sapien,was murderedon 21 May
thatconcludedthatFederal Judicial
1990 afterspearheadingan investigation
Police were responsibleforearlierkillings.In May 1990 as well, the IACHR
issued its decisionfindingMexico in violationof the OAS AmericanConventionon Human Rights.The finalpressurecame in earlyJuneofthatyearwhen
AmericasWatch issued its own report,Human Rightsin Mexico:A Policyof
just days before Salinas and PresidentBush were scheduled to
Impunity,
announce their intentionto begin negotiationsfor a free trade agreement
betweentheircountries.Concernedwithpreemptingnegativepublicityabout
Mexican human rightspractices,four days before the meetingwith Bush,
PresidentSalinas establishedtheNationalHuman RightsCommission.69
Althoughit was headed by a prestigiousMexicanjurist,Dr. JorgeCarpizo,
and has a strongpresenceofmembersfromtheAcademyofHuman Rights,the
independencefromthe
commissionhas been criticizedforlackingsufficient
is
some concernthat the
There
as
a
agency.
to
serve
watchdog
government
67. JorgeLuis SierraGuzman,Rafael Ruiz Harrell,and Jose Barragan,La Comisi6nNacional
(The NationalHuman RightsCommission:A
de DerechosHumanos: Una visi6nno gubemamental
view) (Mexico City: Comisi6n Mexicana de Defensa y Promoci6n de los
nongovernmental
Derechos Humanos,1992),p. 1.
68. Accordingto Dresser, "Foremost among the prioritiesof Salinas's foreignpolicy is the
avoidanceof diplomaticconflictsthatmightsabotageMexico's sharedeconomicinterestswiththe
U.S." See Denise Dresser, "Mr. Salinas Goes to Washington:Mexican Lobbyingin the United
States,"conferencepaper no. 62, presentedat a researchconferenceentitled"CrossingNational
New York,6 December 1991,p. 5.
ColumbiaUniversity,
Borders:Invasionor Involvement,"
92
69. Ellen L. Lutz,"Human Rightsin Mexico:Cause forContinuingConcern,"CurrentHistory
(February1993),pp. 78-82.

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434 InternationalOrganization
purpose of the commissionis to provide a mask for internationalpublic
opinion.70Evidence suggests,however, that in many cases the national
commissionhas been an effectiveadvocate for human rights.7'Since the
formationof the national commission,the governmenthas taken several
concretesteps to improvehuman rightspractices.It has taken measures to
professionalizethe Federal JudicialPolice and has approved proceduresto
preventtheuse of evidencefromconfessionsin trials,whichhad led to routine
use of tortureduringinterrogation
afterarrests.72
Also, the National Human
RightsCommissionhas investigatedand condemnedconditionsin some of the
worstprisons.73
country's
One alternativeexplanationforthechangesin Mexico is to attributethemto
the will of the administration
of PresidentSalinas, since all of the changes
mentionedoccurredafterhe came to power.EvidencesuggeststhattheSalinas
in the absence of human rightspressures,would have been
administration,
unlikelyto have made thesechangeson itsown.For example,shortlyafterthe
took office,the mayorof the Federal District(Mexico
Salinas administration
City) appointedas the directorof intelligenceservicesof Mexico Citya man
witha reputationas a torturerand founderof a death squad, Miguel Nazar
Haro. Because the Presidentappointsthe mayor,Nazar Haro could not have
been named without Salinas's awareness. Yet, it was not until a major
campaignwas mounteddomesticallycallingforNazar Haro's resignationthat
he was givena so-calledleave of absence.74
There is no doubt, however,that Salinas is extremelysensitiveto his
country'sexternalimageand to theinternational
repercussionsofhumanrights
complaints.More thanmanyleaders,Salinas oftentakespreemptivemeasures
to projectthe image of his administration's
concernwithhuman rights.For
example, in late 1992, less than one week before he was to meet with
President-electBill Clinton,Salinas named Dr. Carpizo, the formerSupreme
Court Justicewho was the presidentof the National CommissionforHuman
Rights,as hisnewAttorneyGeneral.
The case of Mexico providesthreeseparate historicalstages,each ofwhich
providessome evidence for the argumentpresentedhere. During the first
stage,in 1968-69,an episode of seriousviolationsof humanrightsprovokedno
international
responsebecause theinternational
humanrightsnetworkdid not
yet exist.During the second stage, from1970 to 1988, lower-levelendemic
70. Emilio Krieger,"Pr6logo" (Prologue), in Sierra Guzman et al., La Comisi6nNacional de
DerechosHumanos(The NationalHuman RightsCommission),p. ix.
71. Lutz discussesthenationalcommission's"hard-hitting
in over300 cases,"
recommendations
manyof whichincludedcases thathave been the focusof NGOs. See Lutz, "Human Rightsin
Mexico,"p. 80.
72. "Mexico: Human Rights Come to the Fore," Latin America Update, vol. 16, no. 1,
WashingtonOfficeon Latin America,January-April
1991,pp. 1 and 6.
73. Americas Watch,PrisonConditionsin Mexico (New York: Human RightsWatch, March
1991),p. 46.
74. MexicanAcademyforHuman Rights,Boletin5 (February1989),p. 12.

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Human rights 435


humanrightsabuses continued.Althoughthe humanrightsnetworkemerged
duringthisperiod,it did not turnits attentionto Mexico, and therewas no
condemnationof these practicesor substantialchange in the human rights
situation.In the thirdstage,from1988 to 1992,the internationalhumanrights
networkbegan to focus on Mexico, in collaborationwith recentlyformed
domestichuman rightsgroups,and provokeda relativelyrapid and forceful
responsefromtheMexicangovernment.75

Conclusions
humanrightspressures
This articlehas arguedthatin some cases international
contributeto changingunderstandingsabout how states should use their
sovereignauthorityover theircitizensand to changingspecifichuman rights
to confirmthisargument,the
practices.Althoughtwo cases are not sufficient
forit and indicatesit is worthfurtherstudy.76
contrastprovidessubstantiation
humanrightsnetworkhas not
There are othercases in whichtheinternational
or practicesabout humanrights:in
in changingunderstandings
been effective
Latin America (for example, Haiti and Guatemala) and elsewhere (for
example,Cambodia and China).77The centralquestionthenbecomes: under
The
whatconditionscan the internationalhumanrightsnetworkbe effective?
cases hereoffersome evidenceoftheseconditions.
actors initiatedglobal
In both Argentinaand Mexico, nongovernmental
concernwithhumanrightsviolationsand documentedtheabuses. Later,when
were
internationaland regionalorganizationsproduced reports,theirefforts
aided by earlier reports formulatedby NGOs. NGOs also provided the
informationthat served as the basis for governmentalhuman rightspolicy.
where
Because domestichumanrightsNGOs are a cruciallinkin thenetwork,
human
international
thesegroupsare absent,as in thecase of Mexico initially,
rightsworkis severelyhampered.Since the human rightsnetworkhas been
strongestin regardto Latin America and to Eastern Europe and the former
75. One recentwork gives internationalpressureslittlecredit for promotingdemocracyin
Mexico.This workwas based on researchthatended in 1989,however,and was notable to observe
pressuresand domesticchangesin the 1989-92period thatare
and commenton the international
the basis of the argumentpresentedhere. See Lorenzo Meyer,"Mexico: The Exceptionand the
Rule," in Abraham F. Lowenthal, ed., ExportingDemocracy: The United States and Latin
Press,1991),pp. 93-110.
America-Case Studies(Baltimore,Md.: JohnsHopkinsUniversity
of the
dictatorships
76. Cases similarto Argentinacould be made forsome of theothermilitary
SouthernCone, such as Chile and Uruguay.Mexico is unique, both forthe lack of attentionit
receivedon humanrightsissues initiallyand forthe rapidityof its response once human rights
where targeted
issues became salient,but thereare othercases of semidemocraticgovernments
internationalhuman rightspressures have led to importantchanges-for example, in the
DominicanRepublic duringthe 1978electionsor morerecentlyin Paraguay.
rejectionof all
77. Even Guatemala has moved along the continuumfromuncompromising
to a middlepositionofaccepting
in sovereignty
interferences
humanrightspressuresas illegitimate
the legitimacyof internationalcriticismbut claimingthatit is not responsibleand cannotcontrol
mostoftheviolence.

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436 InternationalOrganization
Soviet Union, the most forcefulhuman rightswork has been directed at
violationsin theseregions.
One possible alternativeexplanationis that foreigngovernmentpressure
and domesticpoliticalpressurewould have been able to changehumanrights
Whatthismissesis that
oftheissue-network.
practiceswithouttheinvolvement
foreigngovernmentsplaced pressure on human rightsviolatorsonly after
actorshad identified,documented,and denounced human
nongovernmental
to become involved.
rightsviolationsand had pressuredforeigngovernments
Because of the hiddennatureof repressionin Argentinaand the able and
activediplomaticstrategiesof the Argentinejunta,it is unlikelythatthe true
nature of human rightsabuses in Argentinawould have come to world
of information
by
attentionwithoutthe detailed documentationand diffusion
thehumanrightsnetwork.Unlikethecase ofChile,wheretelevisioncrewsand
embassyofficialscould attestto the scale of rightsviolations,the Argentine
for the practiceof disappearanceswas revealed
government'sresponsibility
onlythroughan intenselabor of manyparts of the networkworkingcollectively.The reports of human rightsorganizationsprovided the definitive
evidencenecessaryto mountthe internationalhumanrightscampaignagainst
would
foreigngovernments
the Argentinemilitary.Withoutthisinformation,
not have been able to bringdiplomaticpressureto bear on the Argentine
came almost
The firststrongpressuresfromforeigngovernments
government.
a year afterthe coup and afterthe release of the powerfulAl document
forthe practiceof disapresponsibility
detailingthe Argentinegovernment's
pearances.
The case of Mexico is even clearer because endemic human rightsabuses
persistedfor almost two decades withoutany pressure or commentsfrom
The Mexicancase showsthe humanrightsscenarioboth
foreigngovernments.
when the networkdid not exist and later, before the networkturned its
attentionto a case. When the networkdid not exist,therewas virtuallyno
international
responseto the1968studentmassacre.Whenthenetworkexisted
but did not focus on Mexico, there was no internationalawareness of the
human rightssituationin Mexico. It was only afterthe NGOs withinand
outsideof Mexico began to documenthumanrightsabuses and bringthemto
and onlywithinthe contextof the
the attentionof thepressand policymakers,
made concretechanges
freetradenegotiations,thatthe Mexican government
to improveitshumanrightspractices.
The existenceofthenetworkand a networkdecisionto focuson a particular
conditionsfor changing
countryare necessarybut obviouslynot sufficient
humanrightspractices.Many arguethathumanrightspressureswould notbe
costs to the statesthat
effective
againststrongstatesthatcan raise significant
pressure them. Networkactivistsadmit that they have been less effective
againststatesperceivedas too importantto the nationalsecurityinterestsof

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Human rights 437


superpowers:countriessuch as China, Israel, Pakistan,Saudi Arabia, and
Turkey.78
However,supplementingthe argumenthere witha standardinternational
powerargumentpartlymissesthe point.In Latin America,the countriesthat
have resistedinternationalhumanrightspressures,such as Haiti and Guatemala, are considerablyweaker than such countriesas Argentinaand Mexico,
whichhave respondedto outsidepressures.In the realmof humanrights,it is
thecombinationof moralpressureand materialpressurethatleads to change.
state practiceshas come about as a resultof linkingprincipled
Transforming
ideas to materialgoals: militaryaid, economic aid, and trade benefits.But
whenleaders are unconcerned
materialpressuremaybe ineffective
significant
withthe normativemessage.Countriesmostsusceptibleto networkpressures,
to mobilizemoral outrageand
whichprimarily
involveprovidinginformation
the
of nationsas a
community
shame, are those that aspire to formpart of
where states
most
effective
eventually
Pressures
are
community.
normative
have internalizedthe norms of the human rightsregime and resistbeing
characterizedas pariahs.
But human rightsdoes not representa simple dichotomyof normsversus
withinstatesbecause theycontributed
interests.The networkswere influential
in the understandingsof national interestat timeswhen
to a reformulation
and nationalinterestwerecalled into
ofsovereignty
traditionalunderstandings
question by changingglobal events.In the process of foreignpolicymaking,
especiallyduringa period of profoundglobal flux,policymakersare often
uncertainnot onlyabout whatconstitutesthe nationalinterestbut also about
as carriersof
how it can be promoted.79Issue-networksserved effectively
human rightsideas, insertingthem into the policy debate at the crucial
werequestioningpast policymodels.
momentswhenpolicymakers
A realistapproachto internationalrelationswould have troubleaccounting
of state
forthe activitiesof the networkand the adoptionand implementation
Realismoffers
themas insignificant.
humanrightspoliciesexceptbydismissing
weak nonstateactorscould have
no convincingexplanationforwhyrelatively
an impacton state policyor whystateswould concernthemselveswiththe
internalhumanrightspracticesof otherstates,especiallywhen such concern
interfereswith the pursuit of other state goals. For example, the U.S.
government'spressure on Argentinaregardinghuman rightsissues led to
Argentinedefectionfromthe grain embargo of the Soviet Union. Raising
human rightsissues withMexico could potentiallyunderminethe successful
78. InterviewwithMichael Posner,executivedirector,LawyersCommitteeforHuman Rights,
New York, 19 March 1992.
79. Theoriesof epistemiccommunitiesalso have stressedthe importanceof thesecommunities
to the policy process in conditionsof uncertainty.See Peter Haas, "Introduction:Epistemic
46 (Winter1992),
Communitiesand InternationalPolicyCoordination,"IntemationalOrganization
pp. 1-35, and pp. 12-16 in particular.

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438 InternationalOrganization
completionof the free trade agreementand cooperation with Mexico on
antidrugoperations.Human rightspressuresare notwithoutcosts,evenin the
less importantcountriesofLatinAmerica.
strategically
relationstheory,cooperationresultswhen
In liberalversionsofinternational
statesand nonstateactorsface problemstheycannotresolveindividuallyand
fromwhichjoint gains are possible or mutuallyundesirableoutcomes are
avoided.These situationshave been characterizedas cooperationor coordinaThe human rightsissue,
tion games with particular payoffstructures.80
however,cannotbe easilycharacterizedin thisway.First,thesituationdoes not
fitthe standardviewof a cooperationor coordinationgame. In mostcases, the
internalhumanrightspracticesof statescan be ignoredbyotherstateswithout
causingundesirableeconomicor securityexternalities.
In the issue of human rights,it is primarilyprincipledideas that drive
changesand cooperation.We cannotunderstandwhycountries,organizations,
and individualsare concernedabout humanrightsor whycountriesrespondto
humanrightspressureswithouttakingintoaccounttheroleofnormsand ideas
in international
life.JackDonnellyhas arguedthatsuchmoralinterestsare no
less real thanmaterialinterestsand thata sense ofmoralinterdependencehas
led to theemergenceofhumanrightsregimes.81
In this sense, the workhere fitsinto a new literaturetryingto specifythe
relationsand foreign
influenceof ideas and normativechangeon international
This literature,however,continuesto be vague
and domesticpolicychanges.82
influenceinternational
relations.Whatare
on howideas and normsspecifically
the processes and mechanismsthroughwhichideas come to influencestate
policiesand practices?Whathas been lackingis a meansto conceptualizethese
emergingactors who are contributingto transformedunderstandingsof
In the case of humanrights,I conclude thatthe primarymovers
sovereignty.
networks.
behindthisformof principledinternationalactionare international
Similarcases could be made forotherissue-areaswhereinsharedvalues playa

80. See, for example, ArthurA. Stein, "Coordination and Collaboration: Regimes in an
36 (Spring1982),pp. 299-324.
AnarchicWorld,"IntemationalOrganization
HumanRightsin Theoryand Practice,pp. 211-12.
81. Donnelly,Universal
82. See, forexample,Goldsteinand Keohane, Ideas and ForeignPolicy;Peter A. Hall, ed., The
Political Power of Economic Ideas: KeynesianismAcross Nations (Princeton,N.J.: Princeton
Developmentalism
in Brazil and
UniversityPress, 1989); KathrynSikkink,Ideas and Institutions:
Press,1991); JudithGoldstein,"The ImpactofIdeas on
Argentina
(Ithaca, N.Y.: CornellUniversity
Trade Policy: The Origins of U.S. Agriculturaland ManufacturingPolicies," Intemational
and American
Organization43 (Winter1989), pp. 31-71; JudithGoldstein,"Ideas, Institutions,
Trade Policy,"IntemationalOrganization42 (Winter 1988), pp. 179-217; Ernst B. Haas, When
of
(Berkeley:University
KnowledgeIs Power:ThreeModelsof ChangeinIntemationalOrganizations
Policy:Markets,
Power,and Ideas
Monetary
CaliforniaPress,1990); JohnS. Odell, U.S. Intemational
Press,1982); Michael Shafer,Deadly
as Sourcesof Change(Princeton,N.J.:PrincetonUniversity
Policy (Princeton,N.J.: PrincetonUniversity
Paradigms:The Failure of U.S. Counterinsurgency
Autonomyin
Press,1988); and Emanuel Adler,ThePowerofIdeology:The QuestforTechnological
of CaliforniaPress,1987).
Argentina
and Brazil(Berkeley:University

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Human rights 439


centralrole, such as the ecological movementor a series of smallerissuespecificmovements.83
moreuseful,we need to distinguish
To maketheconceptofan issue-network
fromotherconceptsthatcould be used to frametheinternational
howitdiffers
humanrightsregime,an
dimensionsofthehumanrightsissue: an international
a transnationalhumanrightssocial movement,or other
epistemiccommunity,
formsoftransnationalrelations.84
Althoughthe social movementliteraturehas concentratedon social movesocial movements
mentswithincountries,itoccasionallyrefersto international
as well.85The idea of a social movement,however,with its emphasis on
bottom-upcitizen protest,fails to portrayaccuratelythe range of actors
involvedin the human rightsissues, includingfoundationsand international
part of the
and regionalorganizations.We could call the nongovernmental
networkan internationalsocial movement,but the name would not workfor
thenetworkas a whole.
The regimeliteratureilluminatesthe emergenceof internationalhuman
but it focuses too exclusivelyon states and international
rightsregimes,86
organizationsas the sole "regimemakers."87The focuson networkscomplementstheregimeliteraturebydrawingattentionto therole of nongovernmental actorsin developingnormsand helpingto create,monitor,and strengthen
some regimes.
interactionsof nonstateactors,
By stressingthe importanceof international
thisarticlefollowsin the traditionof earlierworkin transnationalpolitics.88
signaledthe emergenceof multiplechanInterdependencetheoristscorrectly
nels of contactsamongsocietiesand the resultantblurringof domesticpolitics
and internationalpolitics.89Recent worknow seeks to revivethe debate on
83. See Keck and Sikkink,"InternationalIssue Networksin the Environmentand Human
Rights";and KathrynSikkink,"Codes ofConductforTransnationalCorporations:The Case ofthe
40 (Autumn1986),pp. 815-40.
WHO/UNICEF Code," IntemationalOrganization
84. For an exampleof an explorationof the humanrightsissue usingboththeregimeliterature
see AlisonBrysk,"FromAbove and Below: Social Movements,
and thesocial movementliterature,
the InternationalSystem and Human Rights in Argentina," ComparativePolitical Studies,
forthcoming.
85. For example,Saul H. Mendlovitzand R. B. J. Walker,eds., Towardsa JustWorldPeace:
1987).
(Boston: Butterworths,
fromSocial Movements
Perspectives
86. See N. G. Onuf and V. Spike Peterson,"Human Rightsfroman InternationalRegime
Perspective,"Joumalof IntemationalAffairs37 (Winter 1984), pp. 329-42; and JackDonnelly,
40 (Summer1986),
"InternationalHuman Rights:A RegimeAnalysis,"IntemationalOrganization
pp. 599-642.
36 (Spring1982).
87. "InternationalRegimes,"special issue,IntemationalOrganization
Relationsand WorldPolitics(Cam88. Robert Keohane and JosephNye, eds., Transnational
Press,1971).
bridge,Mass.: HarvardUniversity
89. Otherworksnow exploringthisblurringof domesticand internationalpoliticsincludethe
in Latin
following
byDouglas A. Chalmers:"The InternationalDimensionsofPoliticalInstitutions
America: An InternationalizedApproach," paper presented at the annual meeting of the
AmericanPoliticalScience Association,Chicago,3-6 September1992,pp. 1-35; and "An End to
ForeignPolicy:The U.S. and InternationalizedPolitics,"conferencepaper no. 60, presentedat a

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440 InternationalOrganization
transnationalrelations.90Althoughthe "new transnationalism"attemptsto
of transnationalrelations,the
narrowand make more precise the definitions
onlyfactorsthatmanyof thesetransnationalrelationsshareis thatall operate
acrossnationalbordersand all are characterizedbypurposefulactors,at least
fail to
one of which is a nonstate agent. What the new transnationalists
distinguish,however,is how completelydifferentare the purposes of the
relations.
typesof transnational
different
differfromothertypesof transnationalrelationsin termsof
Issue-networks
three
thekindsofideas and purposesthatbindthemtogether.We can identify
goals and
main categoriesof transnationalrelations,based on the different
goals
ideas theyembody:(1) transnationalrelationsmotivatedbyinstrumental
such as the goal of profitor economic gain, (2) transnationalrelations
and (3) transnamotivatedby sharedcausal ideas (epistemiccommunities),91
tional relationsmotivatedby sharedvalues or principledideas-beliefs about
Each of thesesubsetsof transnational
whatis rightor wrong(issue-networks).
set of actors.Transnationalcorporations,
relationshas,in turn,a characteristic
of
organizedinterestgroupsare characteristic
globalbanks,and internationally
thefirstcategory,groupsof scientistsor knowledge-basedexpertscharacterize
Huepistemiccommunities,and activistNGOs characterizeissue-networks.
man rightshas its set of knowledge-basedexperts-the internationallawyers
who have definedinternationalhuman rightslaw-but in the human rights
issue-area,change comes about not throughexpertsexposingthe technical
actorsmobilizingshame by disseminatcomplexitiesbut by nongovernmental
repression.
about government
inginformation
Sovereigntyis not going to disappear. The sovereignstate remains the
and violatinghumanrights.But statesare altering
dominantforcein protecting
Sovereignty
ofthescope and limitsofsovereignauthority.
theirunderstandings
researchconferenceentitled"CrossingNational Borders: Invasion or Involvement,"Columbia
of the
University,
New York, 6 December 1991. Anotherway of theorizingthisinterpenetration
domestic and internationalspheres is the concept of two-levelgames. See Robert Putnam,
42
"Diplomacyand DomesticPolitics:The Logic ofTwo-LevelGames," IntemationalOrganization
(Summer1988),pp. 427-60; and Evans,Jacobson,and Putnam,Double-EdgedDiplomacy.
90. Thomas Risse-Kappen,"TransnationalRelations,Domestic Structures,and International
Institutions:
A ConceptualFramework,"paper presentedat the annual meetingof the American
PoliticalScience Association,Chicago,3-6 September1992.
sharecausal knowledge,
91. Epistemiccommunitiesalso sharesome values,and issue-networks
but each has a characteristictypeof shared idea that definesit and explainsthe natureof the
transnationalrelations created. Haas has stressed that epistemic communitiesshare both
principledand causal ideas, but it is clear fromhis discussionof the concept,as well as fromthe
are
cases chosento illustrateit,thatsharedcausal beliefsunderconditionsof technicalcomplexity
the hallmarksof the epistemiccommunity.
See Haas, "Introduction:EpistemicCommunitiesand
InternationalPolicyCoordination,"p. 18. This factis recognizedby the one essay on epistemic
communitiesin which activistgroups play a key role: M. J. Peterson, "Whalers, Cetologists,
and the InternationalManagementof Whaling,"IntemationalOrganization
46
Environmentalists,
groups concernedwith
(Winter 1992), pp. 147-86. Peterson argues that the environmentalist
The tendencyof thesegroupsto use the "time
whalingdo not qualifyas an epistemiccommunity.
honoreddeviceofmakingstarkcontrastsand dividingtheworldinto'good guys'and 'bad guys'" is
a clear descriptionof actionbased primarily
on principledratherthancausal beliefs(pp. 154-55).

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Human rights 441


is being reconstitutedby an accumulationof practices,manyas ordinaryas
as
writing
a letteron behalfofa prisonerofconscience,othersas path-breaking
fordisappearingitscitizens.
international
courtdecisionsagainsta government
The bulk of issue-networkactivitiescan be categorizedunder the rubricof
informationor education. Networks attemptto alter state human rights
practicesprimarilyby changingthe informationenvironmentin which state
actorswork.In most cases thisinformation
consistedof documentationand
testimonyof human rightsviolations,oftendescribedin verypersonal and
graphicterms.
Because soverHow is it possible thatsuch activitiesreshape sovereignty?
understandings
about the legitimatescope of
eigntyis a set of intersubjective
state authority,
reinforcedby practices,the mundaneactivitiesof the human
rightsnetworkcan accumulateto question the idea that it is nobodyelse's
businesshowa statetreatsitssubjects.Everyreport,conference,or letterfrom
the networkunderscoresan alternativeunderstanding:the basic rightsof
individualsare not the exclusivedomain of the state but are a legitimate
The evidenceofthisnewunderstandconcernoftheinternational
community.
ing can be found not only in the statementsmade by states but more
in theirchangingactions. In the cases of both Argentinaand
importantly
Mexico,thestatesoftenrespondedto suchpressuresbychangingtheirrhetoric
and bychangingconcretestatepolicies.
I arguehere thatthe conceptof principledissue-networks
is a usefultool to
capture the character of the transnationalmovementsthat have shared
The conceptofissue-networks
characteristic.
principledideas as theirdefining
actionsin issue-areasotherthanhumanrights,
maybe usefulforunderstanding
where principledideas also influenceinternationalrelationsbut gain their
linkedorganizationsand
strengthfromtheirembodimentin transnationally
In the realm of human
fromtheirabilityto transform
state understandings.
rightsthe resulthas been that one of the centralprinciplesof international
reconceptualized.This
life-sovereignty-is being graduallybut significantly
studysuggeststhatat least in thissubsetof issues,more attentionneeds to be
ideas
as thecarriersoftransformative
paid to thecrucialrole ofissue-networks
and to the actorswho help createand sustainnewinternational
regimes.

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