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Contagious Rebellion and Preemptive Repression


Journal of Conflict Resolution

Published online on


Civil conflict appears to be contagious—scholars have shown that civil wars in a state’s neighborhood make citizens more likely to rebel at home. However, war occurs when both rebels and the state engage in conflict. How do state authorities respond to the potential for civil conflict to spread? We argue that elites will anticipate the incentive-altering effects of civil wars abroad and increase repression at home to preempt potential rebellion. Using a Bayesian hierarchical model and spatially weighted conflict measures, we find robust evidence that a state will engage in higher levels of human rights violations as civil war becomes more prevalent in its geographic proximity. We thus find evidence that states violate rights as a function of the internal politics of other states. Further, we argue authorities will act not to mimic their neighbors but rather to avoid their fate.