International human rights law is often disparaged either for having no positive impact on government repression or for having negative unintended consequences that lead to even worse repressive violence. Most empirical scholarship on human rights indicates that the root causes of widespread repression--authoritarianism, democratic instability, and civil war--are beyond the reach of legal rules. The contribution of this project is to demonstrate that human rights law in fact has an important role to play in addressing these root causes. I argue that the human rights legal action, under certain conditions, promotes democracy and prevents conflict recurrence. This takes time. By slowly changing state-society interactions, the pursuit of human rights legalization is causally related to lessened repressive violence. Importantly, though, these contributions are not guaranteed, and they are dependent on the creation of domestic human rights constituencies. In support of my argument, I uncover relationships between human rights legal actions and regime change, broadly defined, that have so far remained unobserved. These relationships have been obscured within the existing literature for two reasons. First, detailed data on various legal mechanisms has until recently been lacking. Using new data collected over a 3-year period in coordination with the Oxford-Minnesota Transitional Justice Collaborative (OMTJC), in addition to other longitudinal data from a variety of sources, I address this data deficit in my research. Second, to see the positive impact of human rights legal action on democracy and peace, one must zoom out and observe change over the long term. This dissertation is the first to give serious consideration to issues of time and process in the study of human rights law. In its wide sweep, the dissertation also provides new evidence of robust links between social movements and pursuit of rights-based legalization; between `transitional justice' and the long-term decline of repression; and between enforcement of human rights law and the non-recurrence of civil war. Overall, I find reason to be skeptical of human rights critics, who base their arguments about consequences on short-term events, rather than analyzing larger processes of social transformation.