Last Updated on September 20, 2023 by Karl Thompson
This post provides several examples of Contemporary State Crimes and links to sources of information students can use to explore State Crimes further.
Before reading this post, you might like to read these two posts:
Studying State Crime is an explicit requirement for students studying A-level Sociology, as part of the compulsory Crime and Deviance Module.
Below I have highlighted five countries who are responsible for some of the worst state crimes in recent years….
I’ve tried to select examples of mainly developed countries committing state crimes, to demonstrate that it’s not all impoverished, war torn countries or ‘rogue states’ who are state-criminal actors.
It is, however, important to realise that I have been selective (so there is some selection bias here and these examples will lack representativeness) but I think it has to be this way to make this topic manageable. I have included links below where you can search for further examples of State Crimes.
NB – this post is a work in progress!
Countries Committing State Crimes in 2020-2023
Three prominent examples of governments committing crimes against humanity since 2020 include:
- Russia – the invasion of Ukraine
- China – the cultural genocide against the Uyghers.
- The Taliban’s increasing oppression of women.
Russia’s Crimes Against Humanity
Historically, there’s only one real contender for the the worst state criminal in all of all of human history – the USA.
The International Criminal Court is currently investigating Russia for potential crimes against humanity committed during its invasion of Ukraine. Russia is under investigation for the following crimes:
- deliberate targeting of civilian areas and the systematic mass killing civilians.
- Torture and rape of civilians in Ukraine and Ukrainian prisoners held in Russian territory.
- Forced deportation of over two million Ukrainian adults and children to Russia since the start of the invasion.
China’s Genocide Against the Uyghurs
The Human Right’s Watch Report 2021 report summarises a nearly 10 year history of human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims by the Chinese State. The Uyghurs live in Xinjiang province in the far North East of China, a relatively remote and underdeveloped region of China.
In 2014 the Chinese government commenced a “Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Terrorism” in the Xinjiang region has since involved pressuring Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims to abandon Islam and their culture.
Two examples of Chinese state crimes include:
- Since 2014 over one million ethnic minorities have been forcibly detained and subject to ‘re-education’ sometimes involved torture.
- The populations of the region are also subject to mass surveillance and there are reports of women having been forcibly sterilised.
These actions by the Chinese state are possibly characterised as a cultural genocide and are ongoing today.
The Chinese State has a history of violating human rights. For example the crushing of Hong Kong’s freedoms, ongoing repression in Tibet and Inner Mongolia, and the crackdown on independent voices throughout the country more generally.
The Taliban in Afghanistan
According to Human Rights Watch since the Taliban regained power in Afghanistan they have:
- forced women to wear headscalves in public
- Banned girls from secondary education
- Banned women from working and public office.
- Imposed mass censorchip on the media, undermining freedom of speach
- Murdered or disappeared numerous political opponents.
The United States and Israel as State Criminals
Despite the United States outing Russia as a perpetrator of State Crime in Ukraine, according to Noam Chomsky, the United States, along with Israel, are the two worst terrorist organisations/ rogue states of modern times, even if in the last couple of years their crimes against humanity may have been out of the spotlight!
The Crimes of the United States of America
Below is a useful summary video which takes a trip through some of the War Crimes committed by the United States of America since the end of World War Two.
The State of Israel
Israel has been committing crimes against Palestinians in the occupied territories for several decades now – there are presently almost 7 million Palestinian victims of Israeli apartheid policies which forbids Palestinians from having equal access to regions across Israel. This 2021 report from Human Rights watch explores this. A more accessible report might be this one from Amnesty international .
Some of the crimes the state of Israel commits against Palestinian civilians include:
- Unlawful killing
- Prevention of freedom of movement
- Forced displacement
Syria and Turkey
War Crimes are still being committed by Syria and Turkey in Syria – including the arbitrary killing of civilians, forced detention, which can lead to the death penalty, looting of property and displacement of peoples – there are now 6 million refugees from the region.
Interestingly the report also labels neighbouring countries as committing crimes by blocking access to these refugees!
War Crimes in War Torn Countries (Special Note)
NB – you will find plenty of examples of many state crimes in war torn countries such as Yemen for example, but it seemed a little bit too easy to focus on those, I’m trying to be critical here!
Three organisations which monitor state crimes:
- Amnesty International has a useful hub page here which will allow you to explore contemporary case studies of States involved in various crimes – such as disappearances, political violence, torture and states denying citizens freedom of expression.
- Human Rights Watch – monitors all sorts of State crimes – they cover some of the same ground as Amnesty but also focus more extensively on issues such as women’s’ rights, and reproductive rights and lots more. Their reports page is well worth a browse!
- Transparency International – monitors global political corruption – they’ve developed an index based on surveys which asks people questions such as ‘have you paid a bribe to access a public service in the last year’ – they rank countries according to how corrupt they are and do research into corruption in several countries. You can access the latest world corruption report here.
- You might also be interested in this rare academic source – The State Crime Journal .
Sources and Signposting
This material is mainly relevant to the Crime and Deviance module.
To return to the homepage – revisesociology.com