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CRM303: Crime and Society

Week 6: Crimes by the State

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  • (Political) corruption

  • War crimes

  • Genocide

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Crimes by the State

  • Historically, the state / governments (in tandem with economic elites and the church) have been the biggest criminals

  • Abuse of power

  • Corruption (moral, political)

  • Violence / genocide

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Crimes by the State

  • Why?

  • To achieve or maintain power (power corrupts)

  • In the name of race, ethnicity, territorial expansion, religion, nationalism

  • Greed

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  • Corruption occurs at all levels of government

  • - politicians

  • - civil servants

  • - police

  • - judges

  • - military

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“The abuse of public office for promised advantage or reward”

“The perversion or destruction of integrity in the discharge of public duties by bribery or favour.”

“Corruption is an act with intent to gain some advantage inconsistent with official duty and the rights of others. The act of an official who unlawfully and wrongfully uses his station or character to procure some benefit for himself or for another person, contrary to duty and the rights of others.”

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  • Government corruption is considered one of the most destructive forces that a society can experience:

  • it undermines the basic redistributive functions of the state

  • robs the country of precious resources and capital

  • stunts economic growth and the standard of living

  • negatively impacts on the quality of life for the majority not directly benefiting from graft

  • undermines democracy and political institutions

  • perverts the criminal justice system (including protection of criminals); fosters (organized) crime

  • undermines the confidence in government and the rule of law

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Types of Political Corruption

  • Granting fraudulent contract awards

  • Receiving kickbacks from domestic and foreign contractors

  • Receiving bribes for appointments

  • Embezzling money budgeted for a government department

  • Illegally transferring money to foreign banks

  • Protecting criminals from arrest and prosecution

  • Using the national bank as their personal, private bank

  • Election malpractice

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Political Corruption

Politicians, Organized Criminals and Corruption

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Police Corruption

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War Crimes

The law of war is divided into two parts:

1) jus ad bellum (the right to resort to war)

2) jus in bello (the law during war)

The concept of war crimes encompasses those violations of the laws of war that involve individual criminal responsibility.

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War Crimes

Was first addressed following WW II

  • Both the Allies and Axis powers committed many serious human rights violations:

    • the mistreatment of prisoners of war and non-combatants

    • the use of illegal weapons

    • the bombing of civilian targets

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War Crimes

Defining war-related crimes (Article 6 of the Charter for the Nuremberg Tribunal):

  • Crimes against Peace: Planning or waging a war of aggression, or a war in violation of international agreements

  • War Crimes: Violations of the laws or customs of war. Murder, ill-treatment & slave labour of war prisoners, killing of hostages, plunder of property, justified wanton destruction or devastation

  • Crimes against Humanity: Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, & other inhumane acts against civilian population, before or during the war

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Crimes Against Humanity (Genocide)

  • 129 states are party to the 1948 Genocide Convention, which defines genocide as killings and serious physical or mental injuries inflicted only "with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such."

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Crimes Against Humanity (Genocide)

  • Often directed by those in political power

  • Against domestic or foreign civilians

  • Thousands of years of genocide

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Crimes Against Humanity (Genocide)

Genocide in the 20th Century:

  • 1915 mass murder of Armenians by Ottoman Turkish government (between 500,000 and 1 million people died)

  • WW II – Germany: 6 million Jews exterminated

  • 1975-1979 - Khmer Rouge kill 1.7 million people in Cambodia

  • East Timor – Invasion by Indonesia resulted in more than 200,000 killed

  • Others: Uganda, Rwanda, former Yugoslavia, etc.

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Crimes Against Humanity (Genocide)

Case Study: East Timor