Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

First Advisor

Krister Andersson

Second Advisor

Michaele Ferguson

Third Advisor

David Mapel


If the practical effects of advancing the developmental and humanitarian aims of human rights are to be realized, the assignment and enforcement of institutional responsibilities for human rights must be improved. I defend this claim through normative and empirical arguments based on nonideal conditions that draw on aspects of political theory, international relations, comparative politics, and international law. Specifically, I defend an approach to justifying human rights by arguing that if everyone possesses an individual right to democracy, in order to actually exercise this right, a number of other rights must be guaranteed. In this way I present a unique approach to derive a list of human rights, which I then build on in the next four chapters. By drawing on just war theory and debates about the limits to state sovereignty, and by criticizing instances of coercive nonmilitary actions, I reconcile communitarian views on state sovereignty with others’ emphasis on individual human rights. Through this discussion, I construct a theory of when nonmilitary humanitarian intervention, such as economic sanctions, is morally and legally permissible. Next I suggest that the International Criminal Court (ICC) can and should hold responsible individuals morally and legally culpable of nonviolent crimes against humanity, and that doing so may mitigate the resource curse. Fourth, I argue that because international criminal law is different in kind from domestic criminal law, the ICC should pursue a policy of deterrence, which can best be achieved by indicting nonviolent and subordinate international criminals in addition to supremely powerful violent ones. Finally, by exposing the lack of victim input and nondemocratic decision‐making in the leading theories of transitional justice, I construct a democratic institutional account that is sensitive to the diversity of societies in transition. I conclude that if there is an individual right to democracy, then institutions can and should take steps to better guarantee individual rights, and this can be accomplished even under nonideal conditions.