Transnational terror and human rights

James A. Piazza, James Igoe Walsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Do terrorist attacks by transnational groups lead governments to restrict human rights? Conventional wisdom holds that governments restrict rights to forestall additional attacks, to more effectively pursue suspected terrorists, and as an excuse to suppress their political opponents. But the logic connecting terrorist attacks to subsequent repression and the empirical research that addresses this issue suffer from important flaws. We analyze pooled data on the human rights behavior of governments from 1981 to 2003. Our key independent variable of interest is transnational terrorist attacks, and the analysis also controls for factors that existing studies have found influence respect for human rights. Repeated terrorist attacks lead governments to engage in more extrajudicial killings and disappearances, but have no discernable influence on government use of torture and of political imprisonment or on empowerment rights such as freedom of speech, assembly, and religion. This finding has important implications for how we think about the effects of terrorism and the policy responses of states, non-governmental organizations, and international institutions interested in protecting human rights.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-148
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Studies Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 18 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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