"Just Enough: The Politics of Accountability for Mass Atrocities" (DISSERTATION PROJECT)
Although there is growing global agreement on the need for accountability for mass atrocities, justice is only provided in a minority of cases, and the forms it takes vary widely. In my dissertation, “Just Enough: The Politics of Accountability for Mass Atrocities”, I ask why post-atrocity governments often put in place institutions (for instance, kangaroo courts, or powerless investigative commissions) that superficially resemble accountability mechanisms but lack the capacity to deliver justice. I theorize the creation of these institutions as an example of a broader pattern in human rights behavior, which I call “quasi-compliance”. I argue that because international enforcement of human rights norms is uneven, there’s an incentive to gamble on doing just enough to escape penalty. I test this theory on an original cross-national dataset of mass atrocities committed between 1970 and 2014. I find that the characteristics of post-atrocity governments that deliver justice and those that create quasi-compliant accountability institutions are very different. While robust trials and truth commissions are only pursued when domestic politics favors it, quasi-compliant institutions are put in place to deflect international censure for failure to abide by the global accountability norm requiring criminal prosecutions for mass atrocities. I trace the mechanisms underlying quasi-compliance in two qualitative case studies, drawing on several months of fieldwork in Sri Lanka and Democratic Republic of the Congo.
"Managing Expectations: International Criminal Trials and the Prospects for Deterrence of Mass Atrocity" IJTJ
Despite high hopes that the proliferation of accountability mechanisms represents progress toward the maintenance of international peace and security, claims about the ability of international criminal prosecutions to prevent future atrocities remain largely unexamined. Criminal deterrence depends on the certainty and severity of punishment, and the absence of "overwhelming incentives" to offend. In this article, I survey social science findings about the logic of mass atrocity commission and conclude that international prosecutions are too infrequent and the punishments too mild to affect the decision calculus of perpetrators who use violence against civilians for tactical advantage.