The effect of foreign capital and trade on the right to physical integrity is one of the central issues in human rights scholarship. While there continue to be claims for both a negative and a positive association, the empirical evidence remains mixed. In this paper, the argument is made that the relationship between foreign economic penetration and repression is context-dependent. Countries with high levels of human and physical capital and a sound institutional setting tend to profit from beneficial spillovers in terms of increasing economic development and
social equality, which eventually decreases repression levels. In stark contrast, foreign investment and trade often gives rise to uneven development in countries with low levels of education and institutional quality. In these contexts, foreign economic penetration will bring about more repression of security rights. The main implications of the argument are tested for a panel of 114 developing countries in the period of 1984-2010. The results of the empirical analysis provide considerable support for the notion of context-dependence.