Why respecting physical integrity rights reduces terrorism

James I. Walsh, James A. Piazza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

158 Scopus citations


Does respect for human rights check or promote terrorism? This question is hotly debated within policy circles. Some hold that restricting human rights is a necessary if unfortunate cost of preventing terrorism. Others conclude that such abuses aggravate political grievances that contribute to terror. The authors demonstrate that theory and data support the latter position. They hypothesize that abuse of the subset of rights known as physical integrity rights fuels terrorism by making it more difficult for government authorities to collect intelligence on terrorists and by undermining domestic and international support for their counterterrorism efforts. They test this hypothesis using a data set that includes measures of both domestic and transnational terrorist attacks and find that respect for physical integrity rights is consistently associated with fewer terrorist attacks. This suggests that those interested in curtailing terrorism should press governments to more carefully respect physical integrity rights.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)551-577
Number of pages27
JournalComparative Political Studies
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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