RESEARCH: Human rights, international courts, and state backlash
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) frequently turn to international human rights courts to hold states accountable for human rights abuses.
But across the world, there is increased state backlash against NGOs’ activism for human rights accountability. States can restrict NGO activities domestically, through laws and other tactics (e.g., intimidation, violence), and internationally, by undermining NGOs’ access to international human rights courts.
New Concordia research uses the country of Tanzania as a case study to examine how this state backlash affects NGOs’ advocacy for human rights.
Nicole De Silva, an associate professor in the Department of Political Science, recently picked up a Best Human Rights Paper Award from the International Studies Association for her work on this topic.
Her paper, NGOs, international courts, and state backlash against human rights accountability: Evidence from NGO mobilization against Tanzania at the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights, explains how state backlash tactics can both deter and promote NGOs’ human rights activism through international human rights courts.
The paper examines how Tanzania’s restrictive tactics affected whether and how NGOs brought human rights cases to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, one of the world’s four international human rights courts. Three case studies of NGO activism on the death penalty, the rights of persons with albinism, and the rights of pregnant schoolgirls in Tanzania provide insight into how state resistance can affect the work of NGOs and international human rights courts, and the challenges they face holding hostile states to account.
“While this focus may seem specific, it addresses challenges for human rights defenders across the world, as states are placing increasing restrictions on their opportunities for promoting human rights accountability,” De Silva says.
Read NGOs, international courts, and state backlash against human rights accountability: Evidence from NGO mobilization against Tanzania at the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights, published open-access in the Law and Society Review.