Honors Program


Date of this Version

Spring 2019

Document Type



Black, A. (2019). The United States Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty Landscape: Comparative Human Rights Statuses of International Law Enforcement Partners. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


For more information and access to this study's data, please visit the following website: https://bit.ly/2U3VTnx.

Copyright Allison Black 2019.


The increasing importance of suppressing transnational crime has also raised many questions regarding the international community’s ability to do so while effectively protecting human rights. Due to human rights concerns regarding Mutual Legal Assistance, I hypothesize that the United States would be wary of enforcing agreements—Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (or MLATs)—with countries whose understanding of criminal rights and civil liberties differ. Human rights ratings were compiled for 195 countries over the years from 1972-2017 using the Freedom in the World indices. All bilateral Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties signed and/or ratified with the United States and partner countries were collected from the online congressional legislative database. Statistical comparison and regression were utilized to determine the relationship between human rights and existence of MLATs. Countries with which the United States has signed and ratified an MLAT were found to have, on average, better human rights ratings than those countries with which the United States does not have a mutual legal assistance agreement. Only political rights ratings were significantly correlated with the existence of an MLAT with the United States. Furthermore, comparison by region demonstrated that the relationship between human rights and MLAT existence varied much throughout the world. This study demonstrates that the relationship between human rights ratings and the signing and ratification of MLATs with the United States is only partially significant and regionally variable. Further research must be done to better understand MLATs in the face of the increasing use of mutual legal assistance to fight transnational crime.