Political science reading group: Legitimation through Neutrality? A sentiment analysis of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Political science reading group with Theresa Squatrito


Several observers note that international organizations are under stress and facing challenging times as their authority is increasingly contested. This has led some scholars to consider how international organizations respond to criticism and develop methods of self-legitimation. International courts (ICs) are no exception. They also face increasing challenges to their authority, whether through state withdrawal, blatant noncompliance or other strategies of de-legitimation. Yet, the methods of self-legitimation of ICs are likely to be complex. The legitimacy of ICs depends upon, on the one hand, perceptions of their neutrality and apolitical nature. On the other hand, ICs’ legitimacy also depends on having a reputation for good performance, in terms of the procedures they apply and outcomes they produce. Thus, the question remains, how in fact do ICs self-legitimate? Do they demonstrate their neutrality or highlight their performance? And, are their methods of self-legitimation sensitive to the political context? In this paper, we examine ICs’ self-representations to their stakeholders using sentiment analysis of annual reports. Annual reports provide a unique opportunity to ICs, whereby they can portray narratives about their practices and performance. Looking at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, we uncover how and under what conditions the Court relies on its annual reports to balance representations of neutrality and performance.


The paper is coauthored with Philipp Schroeder from Umeå University.


The political science reading group meets on a regular basis to discuss papers on judicial politics or international courts and tribunals.

The reading group is managed by PluriCourts, but open to everyone that is interested.

Published Jan. 28, 2020 11:06 AM - Last modified Feb. 18, 2020 12:52 PM