The prohibition of torture is one of the most emblematic norms of the modern human rights movement, and its prevalence in national constitution has increased steeply in the past three decades. Yet little is known about whether constitutional torture prohibitions actually reduce torture. In this paper, we explore the relationship between constitutional torture prohibitions and torture by utilizing new data that corrects for biases in previous measures of torture, and a recently developed method that mitigates selection bias by incorporating information on countries’ constitutional commitments into our research design. Using this new data and method, as well as more conventional data sources and methods, we do not find any evidence that constitutional torture prohibitions have reduced rates of torture in a statistically significant or substantively meaningful way.

Adam S. Chilton & Mila Versteeg, The Failure of Constitutional Torture Prohibitions, 44 Journal of Legal Studies 417–452 (2015).