Despite the fact that there are strong assumptions surrounding the effects of human rights violations on the risk of civil war onsets, very few researchers have actually tested the relationship in an empirical and systematic manner. This thesis is unique in the way that it investigates whether violations of civil and political, economic and social, and physical integrity rights increase the risk of civil war.
By drawing on findings from both human rights- and civil war research, I outline an integrated human rights peace and conflict theory. Central to this theory is the claim that grave human rights abuses lead to a lack of legitimacy for the government. Further to those who see human rights violations as grievances that motivate people to rebel, I argue that a country’s policies on human rights can also contribute to our understanding of how people are mobilised, and how rebellion is made practically possible. Hypotheses are tested by applying quantitative research methods.
My main finding is that violations of physical integrity rights and economic and social rights (operationalised as subsistence rights) increase the risk of civil war. I find no significant effects of civil and political rights. However, in order to reach more certain conclusions, there is a strong need for the collection of more valid and reliable human rights data, particularly on economic and social rights.