Research Projects


“The More the Better? The Complementarity of Human Rights Reviewing Mechanisms in the United Nations”

I was the Principal Investigator of this project, working under the academic mentorship of Prof. Manfred Nowak. In this project, I studied the overlapping activities performed by the United Nations Treaty Bodies and Universal Periodic Review in the fight against torture and other forms of ill-treatment. I contributed to debates on regime complexity, compliance with international law, and human rights governance. Ms. Vera Karagiannidou was involved in the project as my research assistant from November 2018 to August 2019.

Short summary
The surge in international human rights treaties since the end of the Second World War led to the establishment of numerous instruments monitoring treaty compliance. Within the United Nations (UN), the two main instruments to this aim are the examination of state reports by Treaty Bodies and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Yet, the co-existence of these mechanisms might give rise to duplications or even contradictions in their output, which includes a set of recommendations for states to improve their performance. This might in turn hinder their ability to improve the human rights situation in reviewed countries. This project assesses the extent to which the UPR and the Treaty Bodies deliver complementary, duplicating or contradicting recommendations to states on issues of torture and other forms of ill-treatment, and whether this places them in a mutually reinforcing or undermining relationship.


“A Double-Edged Sword: The Effects of Politicization on the Authority of the UN Universal Periodic Review and Treaty Bodies”

My doctoral research, titled “A Double-Edged Sword: The Effects of Politicization on the Authority of the UN Universal Periodic Review and Treaty Bodies” was conducted in the framework of a NWO-funded VIDI research project led by Prof. Thomas Conzelmann at the Department of Political Science of Maastricht University.

Summary of the doctoral project
While many issues in contemporary international politics demand states to collaborate with one another, governments are still keen on retaining a substantial measure of sovereign control over national policies. Soft governance instruments, which are based on monitoring without sanctioning, are one way to respond to this dilemma. However, because soft instruments lack enforcement powers, they need to be perceived as authoritative by the participants in order to engender effects.

A Double-Edged Sword probes into the authority of two soft governance instruments within the United Nations human rights system, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and the state reporting process of the Treaty Bodies. While both instruments show important commonalities, they are set apart by the type of actors responsible for the review of a particular country: independent experts in the case of the Treaty Bodies, and representatives of other UN member states in the case of the UPR. Against this background, the dissertation discusses whether both instruments show similar or different levels of authority, and whether expert review is more neutral and detached than the assumedly more politicized review by other state parties.

Data were collected by means of an online survey, semi-structured interviews, document analysis, and nonparticipant observation. The thesis shows that politicization does not always lead to negative consequences for authority, as is commonly assumed in the current human rights literature. On the contrary, while politicization negatively affects the authority of the Treaty Bodies, it can have unexpected positive consequences for the authority of the UPR.

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