Arrested Development: The Dangerous Mix of Patronage and Justice in Post-Conflict Countries

Project leader

Joakim Kreutz

Other Project Participants

Anders Themnér

Project Period

2017 – 2019

Project description

How to deal with perpetrators of war crimes has been identified as a key component of peacebuilding. There is a growing literature analyzing the correlation between amnesties and civil war duration and investigating claims that war-crime tribunals have a positive long-term impact on security. A central shortcoming in this literature is that it does not take into account what happens to post-war societies at the moment leaders are arrested. In fact, arrests can be likened with systemic shocks that threaten the wellbeing of wartime leaders’ constituencies and can result in renewed violence. The purpose of this project is therefore to investigate why the detention of former wartime leaders generate organized violence in some instances, but not in others. We argue that violence is particularly likely when incarcerated leaders have monopolized peacetime flows of patronage to their constituencies. In such situations, arrests are likely to leave clients in need, obliging them to leave the network. To salvage waning networks junior elites have incentives to organize armed attacks to compel the authorities to give them positions in the government or release the detained leader. The study will employ a mixed-method approach; the findings from a quantitative study of post-armed conflict arrests in the world (1946 to 2015), will be contrasted with insights from a structured, focused comparison between the incarceration of Slobodan Milošević (ex-Yugoslavia) and Charles Taylor (Liberia).

Related publications

Themnér, Anders (ed.) (2017), Warlord Democrats in Africa: Ex-Military Leaders and Electoral Politics, London: Zed Publishing.

Kreutz, J., Marsh, N., & Torre, M. (2012). "Regaining state control: Arms and violence in post-conflict countries." In Greene, O. & Marsh, N (eds), Small Arms, Crime, and Conflict: Global Governance and the Threat of Armed Violence. London: Routledge.

Main financial support 

Swedish Research Council (Development Research Section)