Sabine C. Carey, Michael P. Colaresi, Neil J. Mitchell
Governments, Informal Links to Militias, and Accountability

Journal of Conflict Resolution, 2015: 59, issue 5, pp. 850-876
ISSN: 0022-0027 (print); 1552-8766 (online)

From Syria to Sudan, governments have informal ties with militias that use violence against opposition groups and civilians. Building on research that suggests these groups offer governments logistical benefits in civil wars as well as political benefits in the form of reduced liability for violence, we provide the first systematic global analysis of the scale and patterns of these informal linkages. We find over 200 informal state–militia relationships across the globe, within but also outside of civil wars. We illustrate how informal delegation of violence to these groups can help some governments avoid accountability for violence and repression. Our empirical analysis finds that weak democracies as well as recipients of financial aid from democracies are particularly likely to form informal ties with militias. This relationship is strengthened as the monitoring costs of democratic donors increase. Out-of-sample predictions illustrate the usefulness of our approach that views informal ties to militias as deliberate government strategy to avoid accountability.