(Previously titled "Empowering the Individual: Repressive Regimes in the Human Rights Committee")


The growing literature explaining why repressive regimes ratify human rights treaties fails to explain why some regimes take the additional step to delegate authority to their people to file international legal complaints while others do not. I examine individual petition mechanisms in the United Nations which allow individuals to file complaints to an overseeing treaty body. I argue that repressive regimes face international incentives to signal their commitment to the European Union, a global power with a strong and continued interest in the global human rights regime. Repressive regimes, however, only ratify agreements when they perceive low domestic costs with little institutional constraints on the executive. In support of my theory, I find that repressive regimes are more likely to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights' Optional Protocol allowing individual petitions when they are trade dependent on the EU while facing lesser institutional constraints, both legislative and judicial. The results are similar to explaining treaty ratification, but the interaction is substantively larger for OP ratification among repressive countries, highlighting the increased costs repressive leaders face to allowing individual petitions. Individual standing in the overseeing body of the ICCPR is one example of non-state actor access in international institutions, which is an important component of understanding institutional design and compliance.

Working Papers

Working paper drafts available upon request.

"Individual Mobilization by Victims of Human Rights Abuse: Who Files Petitions in the United Nations?"

Revise & Resubmit at International Studies Quarterly

(Previously titled "Confronting a Repressive Regime: Individual Petitions in the Human Rights Committee")

Best Graduate Student Paper,  Law and Courts Section, American Political Science Association 2022


Who files petitions against repressive regimes in the United Nations? Victims of human rights abuse face high personal costs of participation, including retaliation from the government against whom they are filing a complaint. There is also a significant information barrier. Despite these costs, over one thousand petitions (complaints) have been filed against repressive governments in just one United Nations treaty body. I frame filing international petitions as a form of anti-regime mobilization; if mistreated, political individuals and organizations file petitions as a part of their broader mobilization efforts to improve human rights. This research note introduces individual-level data of individuals who file complaints in the United Nations. I find there are two main categories of petitioners: (1) individuals with prior political involvement and (2) individuals represented by civil society organizations. This dataset of 1069 petitions includes identities of individuals, involvement of legal representation, specific rights under constestation, and other identifying individual characteristics. These data on individuals who overcome high costs help improve our understanding of broader processes of mobilization, both domestic and international.

Presented at: Jan Tinbergen European Peace Science Conference 2021, ISA Joint Human Rights Conference 2021 ("Human Rights and Foreign Policy"), Peace Science Society International 2020, accepted to both ISA 2020 (canceled due to COVID-19) and 2021.

"Naming and Shaming in UN Treaty Bodies:  Individual Petitions' Effect on Human Rights" 

Conditional Acceptance at Review of International Organizations


Can non-binding decisions by inter-governmental organizations improve respect for human rights? Much of the existing literature believes that international law has a limited effect, especially without enforcement mechanisms, in the countries where it's needed the most. Focused on repressive regimes, this paper analyzes petitions filed by victims of human rights abuse in the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the overseeing body of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As a form of naming and shaming, I theorize that Committee violation rulings may improve human rights when paired with civil society actors with the resources to publicize the findings to a global audience. I argue that petitions filed by individual victims serve as an effective personal frame, presenting a compelling and relatable narrative, and Committee rulings lend legitimacy to civil society's constant naming and shaming. This naming and shaming increases reputational costs for repressive regimes that are economically dependent on Western, liberal democracies. I use a multi-methods approach including quantitative analysis of aggregate measures of physical integrity rights and case studies focused on specific policies under contestation in the Committee. Leveraging an original dataset, I find that governments improve respect for the most severe abuses involving bodily harm immediately after violation rulings. These short-lived effects are driven by petitions where civil society actors are listed as representation.

Presented at: Political Economy of International Organization 2023, ISA 2023, New Directions in Law and Society 2022,  APSA 2022 

"Finding the Right Forum: Non-State Actor Engagement in International Organizations" with  Gino Pauselli

Under review 


How does institutional design affect non-state actors' preference for regional and global organizations? While existing research highlights the importance of international organizations' activity, it often treats civil society actors as exogenous and their involvement as given. In contrast, our approach considers these actors as strategic decision-makers, choosing where to engage based on the costs and benefits associated with each IO's institutional design. Focusing on the human rights regime, where non-state actors can submit complaints to multiple fora (but not simultaneously), we compare the Inter-American System of Human Rights and the UN human rights treaty system using novel individual petition data. Our findings show that when actors have the ability to receive a legally binding decision, petitions increase in such organizations and decrease in alternative ones. In the absence of Court jurisdiction, UN bodies become a more attractive organization for individual petitioners given the decreased time until a decision.

Presented at: PEIO 2024, ISA 2024, APSA 2023

Works in Progress 

Petitioning for Progress: How Victims of Human Rights Abuse Participate in the United Nations (Book Project)

"Giving Children Voice: Institutional Design and Evolution in the United Nations" with Andrea Vilán

Presented at: APSA 2024 (upcoming)

"Timing is Everything: Ratifying Human Rights Treaties and their Individual Petition Mechanisms"

Book Reviews