Instruments of security or tools of repression? Arms imports and human rights conditions in developing countries

Academic Article


  • Scholars traditionally have focused on arms as a means of deterring, initiating, maintaining, or terminating international war. Indeed, based on the assumption that a coercive military response is required if security is to be preserved, arms are widely viewed as an instrument of defense from external threat. In the developing world, however, internal threats are far more common. Yet the role of arms in facilitating domestic political violence has received far less scholarly attention. This article endeavors to expand upon both our understanding of arms as a source of conflict and our knowledge of the correlates of human rights repression. To this end, this study tests the relationship between the importation of arms and the repression of personal integrity rights. Employing a pooled time-series cross-sectional design, the patterns of arms acquisitions behavior and human rights violations are examined for developing countries for the years 1982 through 1992. The results indicate that arms imports by developing countries are linked to poor human rights conditions. Thus, arms acquisitions appear to contribute to repression by making violent political acts more feasible.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Blanton SL
  • Start Page

  • 233
  • End Page

  • 244
  • Volume

  • 36
  • Issue

  • 2