Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD)


The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (ICHR) is one of the central institutions promoting adherence to fundamental human right norms in the Americas, yet States fully comply with only 5% of its judgments. This low rate of compliance threatens the Court’s effectiveness and undermines the legitimacy of this regional human rights system. This dissertation analyzes the problem of noncompliance with ICHR judgments. Furthermore, it connects the problem of noncompliance and existing explanations in the ICHR with broader theories from the study of international relations in order to ground this regional case study in the larger debates about international legal norms in international politics. It is based on a qualitative analysis of 129 cases of the ICHR that examines court documents including judgments on merits, reparations, and cost; monitoring orders; and resolutions. Preliminary observations in my analysis indicate, counter-intuitively, that States acquiesce their international responsibility for human rights violations in ICHR proceedings have lower compliance rates with ICHR judgments than States that do not acquiesce responsibility. Specifically, the compliance rate for obligations that involve acquiescence is only 20% while the compliance rate for obligations that do not involve acquiescence is 50%. This observation is explained by analyzing the interaction between the States and the Court in the proceedings. I argue that acquiescence is the first step in a strategy designed to minimize consequences for high-level national authorities involved in a Court case of being threatened by an International Court judgment. Indeed, where the State strategy to protect authorities is unsuccessful, the amount of compliance that States will be willing to supply in cases is 1%. On the contrary, when the Court releases authorities from responsibilities by issuing restrained judgments and, accordingly, this State strategy turns into success the rate of compliance of cases with acquiescence is similar to the rate of compliance of those cases without acquiescence. The study also made apparent that cases with acquiescence were controlled in a much-diminished way by the Court in comparison with those non-acquiescence, intensely monitored cases. I conclude that these findings are not sufficiently considered by key theories of international relations. Based on this analysis, I propose statutory reforms that take into account the State-Court interaction process. These reforms extend from the stale, dominant paradigm of Court assistance and deterrence into alternative modes of negotiation to counteract noncompliance.