Sabine C. Carey, Belén González
The legacy of war: The effect of militias on postwar repression

Conflict Management and Peace Science, 2021: 38, Heft 3, S. 247–269
ISSN: 0738-8942 (print), 1549-9219 (online)

How do wartime legacies affect repression after the conflict ends? Irregular forces support the government in many civil wars. We argue that if this link continues after the war, respect for human rights declines. As “tried and tested” agents they are less likely to shirk when given the order to repress. Governments might also keep the militias as a “fall-back option”, which results in more repression. Analyzing data from 1981 to 2014 shows that pro-government militias that were inherited from the previous conflict are consistently associated with worse repression, but newly created ones are not. Wartime pro-government militias target a broader spectrum of the population and are linked to worse state violence. New militias usually supplement wartime ones and use violence primarily against political opponents. This study highlights the detrimental impact of war legacies.