Professor Penny Green, Director of the International State Crime Initiative (ISCI) at Queen Mary University of London, will this week edit a special feature in Open Democracy on state crime and resistance.
The week-long series will feature ten specialist contributions on a range of global topics including the role of civil society in pre-revolutionary Tunisia, the ‘war on terror’, the conflict in the Middle East, and Colombia’s peace community.
According to Professor Green:
“State crimes are generally easy to recognise: genocide, war crimes, torture, police violence, and ‘grand corruption’ – the organised plunder of national resources by a ruling elite. Yet the question of how to define state crime is nonetheless controversial. The articles published in this series reflect ICSI’s preferred definition: state organisational deviance resulting in human rights violations.”
The series places particular emphasis on the immense importance of civil society in recording, exposing, and mediating state crime.
“Even for those crimes acknowledged in international law – torture, genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes – governments have shown at best only a selective interest in monitoring and measuring. We must therefore rely on civil society in all its forms - with its myriad strategies of resistance to state violence and corruption - to identify, define, expose and sanction state crime,” said Professor Green.
Contributors to the series will include Dr Tony Ward, University of Hull; Dr Kristian Lasslett, University of Ulster, Dr Thomas MacManus, QMUL; Richard Falk, Princeton University; and Professor Jeremy Keenan, SOAS.
The series opens today with an article by Professor Green on how civil society in Tunisia played a critical role in defining the legitimacy of state behaviour. Her article focuses on the fight against state corruption by a group of phosphate mining widows in the Gafsa Mining Basin. According to Professor Green’s article:
“The self-immolation of street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia in December 2010 animated a revolutionary movement, not only against the violence, corruption and repression of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s Tunisia, but against despotism across the whole Middle East.”
“Less well known, however, was the growing culture of Tunisian resistance which gave that single act of protest its revolutionary impulse. Bouazizi’s public act of despair ignited insurrection precisely because it took place in the context of a wider, deeper level of popular civil opposition.”
The series continues throughout the week and is published here.