Judging their own: when and why states pursue accountability for human rights violations of security forces

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What explains why governments and militaries pursue accountability against some human rights violations committed by members of their armed forces during ongoing conflicts, but not other violations? Further, what are

What explains why governments and militaries pursue accountability against some human rights violations committed by members of their armed forces during ongoing conflicts, but not other violations? Further, what are the consequences of such prosecutions for their military and governmental objectives? The theory put forth by this study suggests that rather than only the natural outcome of strong rule of law, domestic prosecutions within a state’s security apparatus represents a strategic choice made by political and military actors. I employ a strategic actor approach to the pursuit of accountability, suggesting that the likelihood of accountability increases when elites perceive they will gain politically or militarily from such actions. I investigate these claims using both qualitative and quantitative methods in a comparative study across the United States and the United Kingdom. This project contributes to interdisciplinary scholarly research relevant to human rights studies, human rights law, political science, democratic state-building, democratic governance, elite decision making, counter-insurgency, protests, international sanctions, and conflict resolution. Particularly, this dissertation speaks to the intersection of strategy and law, or “lawfare” a method of warfare where law is used as means of realizing a military objective (Dunlap 2001). It provides generalizable results extending well beyond the cases analyzed. Thus, the results of this project will interest those dealing with questions relating to legitimacy, human rights, and elite decision making throughout the democratic world.