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date: 20 April 2024

Measuring Violations of Human Rights Standardslocked

Measuring Violations of Human Rights Standardslocked

  • Mark Gibney, Mark GibneyBelk Distinguished Professor, Department of Political Science, University of North Carolina-Asheville; Raoul Wallenberg Visiting Professor of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Lund University
  • Linda Cornett, Linda CornettDepartment of Political Science, University of North Carolina, Asheville
  • Peter Haschke, Peter HaschkeDepartment of Political Science, University of North Carolina, Asheville
  • Reed M. WoodReed M. WoodDepartment of Political Science, Arizona State University
  •  and Daniel ArnonDaniel ArnonDepartment of Political Science, Emory College


Although every violation of international human rights law standards is both deplorable and illegal, one of the major advances in the social sciences has been the development of measures of comparative state practice. The oldest of these is the Political Terror Scale (PTS), which provides an ordinal measure of physical integrity violations carried out by governments or those associated with the state. Providing data from the mid-1970s to the present, the PTS scores the human rights practices of more than 190 countries on a scale of 1–5, with 1 representing “best practices” and 5 indicating gross and systematic violations. There are two different sources for these scores: U.S. State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the Amnesty International Annual Report.

Although human rights have traditionally been associated only with the state, individuals can also be denied human rights protection by nonstate actors. To measure this, the Societal Violence Scale has been created to analyze three sources of physical integrity violations: the individual, corporate or criminal gang activity, and armed groups.


  • Contentious Politics and Political Violence

Updated in this version

Minor updates were made to the text, references, and figures to reflect recent developments and research in the field.

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