International Human Rights Law and Practice in Latin America


Lutz, Ellen, and Kathryn Sikkink. 2000. “International Human Rights Law and Practice in Latin America.” International Organization 53 (4): 633–59. Copy at


Human rights practices have improved significantly throughout Latin America during the 1990s, but different degrees of legalization are not the main explanation for these changes. We examine state compliance with three primary norms of international human rights law: the prohibition against torture, the prohibition against disappearance, and the right to democratic governance. Although these norms vary in their degree of obligation, precision, and delegation, states have improved their practices in all three issue-areas. The least amount of change has occurred in the most highly legalized issue-area—the prohibition against torture. We argue that a broad regional norm shift—a “norms cascade”—has led to increased regional and international consensus with respect to an interconnected bundle of human rights norms, including the three discussed in this article. These norms are reinforced by diverse legal and political enforcement mechanisms that help to implement and ensure compliance with them.

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Last updated on 05/19/2018