Abstract: This project looks at the politics of accountability for mass atrocities. In it, 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 quasicompliance in two qualitative case studies, drawing on several months of fieldwork in Sri Lanka and Democratic Republic of the Congo.
About the Speaker: Kate Cronin-Furman is a human rights lawyer (J.D. Columbia, 2006) and political scientist (Ph.D. Columbia, 2015). Her research focuses on the interaction between international norms and politics. Her work has appeared in the International Journal of Transitional Justice, The Washington Post's "Monkey Cage" blog, The Atlantic, The National Interest, and The New York Times.