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 2020-2021
I’ve listed these in rough order of the number of victims. The United Nations and Israel deserve their places at the top given the fact that, following Noam Chomsky, they 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!
1. The United States of America
Historically, there’s only one real contender for the the worst state criminal in all of all of human history – the USA.
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.
2. 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
The Human Right’s Watch Global Report 2020 singles out China has being increasingly repressive in recent years. It notes that ‘….the detention of more than one million Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang to pressure them to abandon Islam and their culture, the crushing of Hong Kong’s freedoms, ongoing repression in Tibet and Inner Mongolia, and the crackdown on independent voices throughout the country. This has been the darkest period for human rights in China since the 1989 massacre that ended the Tiananmen Square democracy movement.’
4. The Russian Federation
Amnesty International outlines the criminal case against the state of Russia here.
Even in its post-communist years the Russian State has a long history of not allowing freedom of assembly to protest, and the censoring of journalists who criticise the state, and even the murdering of those who oppose the State.
5. 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!
6. 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 .