Human Rights and State Security: Indonesia and the Philippines

Human Rights and State Security: Indonesia and the Philippines

Human Rights and State Security: Indonesia and the Philippines

Human Rights and State Security: Indonesia and the Philippines


In recent years, influential studies have shown that the activities of human rights organizations are central in convincing violating governments to improve their practices. Yet some governments continue to get away with human rights violations despite mobilizations against them. In Human Rights and State Security: Indonesia and the Philippines, Anja Jetschke considers the impact of transnational human rights advocacy on the process of human rights reform and democratization in two countries that have been successful in resisting international human rights pressure.

Jetschke details the effects of campaigns waged by international and domestic NGOs, foreign governments, local opposition leaders, and international organizations. She argues that the literature on transnational advocacy overlooks the ability of governments to justify and excuse human rights violations in their public dialogue with human rights organizations. Describing efforts of international and domestic human rights advocates to protect the rights of various groups, the case studies in this book suggest that governments successfully block or evade pressures if they invoke threats to state security. Jetschke finds that state security puts into play a set of powerful international norms related to sovereignty--a state's right to territorial integrity, the secular organization of the state, or a government's lack of control over the means of organized violence. If governments frame persuasive arguments around these norms, they can effectively mobilize competing domestic and international groups and trump human rights advocacy. Human Rights and State Security shows that the content and arguments on behalf of human rights matter and provide opportunities for both governments and civil society organizations to advance their agendas.


Why do governments routinely violate human rights, and what makes them decide to change that practice? Do international human rights norms, in fact, influence state behavior? If so, can non-governmental human rights organizations influence a state’s human rights practice in a positive way, and under what conditions? Why is the mobilization of external actors different, even when they are responding to similar types of violations? And under what conditions can governments evade public pressures to change their practices?

In addition to those general questions, what happens when we focus on specific nations—in this case, Indonesia and the Philippines? Do international norms have any significant impact on these nations’ human rights practices, and under what conditions? And what about the activities of international human rights organizations like Amnesty International, the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights or Human Rights Watch? How do the public discourses that routinely develop between governments and these organizations influence the governments’ decisions on human rights policies? And how does the impact of a mobilization vary with the type of regime? That is, does it make a difference that the Philippines and Indonesia were authoritarian at one point and in a transition to democracy at another point when they were targeted by human rights campaigns? Finally, have human rights campaigns helped these two states to continually improve their human rights practices?

In addressing these questions, I attempt to establish three major claims. First, I show that international human rights organizations, like Amnesty . . .

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