Skip to main content

Special series with Open Democracy seeks to lift the veil on state crime

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.

Published on:

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 Tony Ward, University of Hull; Kristian Lasslett, University of Ulster, Thomas MacManus, QMUL; Richard Falk, Princeton University); and 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 will run throughout the week beginning 15 December, and is published here

International State Crime Initiative

The International State Crime Initiative (ISCI) joined Queen Mary University of London in September 2014, and is housed at the School of Law. The research centre incorporates backgrounds in law, criminology, and the social sciences. It aims to introduce new perspectives to the field of human rights research, which has traditionally been focussed on legal theory and mechanisms, but today exists as an intersection of academic fields.

ISCI is a community of scholars working to further our understanding of state crime. ISCI defines state crime as state organisational deviance resulting in human rights violations. This includes crimes committed, instigated, or condoned by state agencies or by non-state entities that control substantial territory.

The concept of state crime includes but extends beyond legal categories of human rights abuse and international crime. The Centre’s focus is on victims as key actors in defining, exposing and challenging state violence and corruption. ISCI takes the term ‘crime’ to include all violations of human rights that are ‘deviant’ in the sense that they infringe some socially recognised norm. ISCI is an interdisciplinary forum for research, reportage and debate. Through both empirical and theoretical enquiry it aims to connect rigorous research with emancipatory activism.

Professor Penny Green

Professor Penny Green is Chair of Law and Globalisation at Queen Mary University of London. She joined Queen Mary University of London in September 2014 following seven years as Professor of Law and Criminology at King’s College London. Prior to that she held posts at the University of Westminster, University of Southampton and the London School of Economics. Professor Green graduated from the Australian National University in 1979 with a BA (Hons), and with an MPhil and PhD in Criminology from the University of Cambridge.

Professor Green is also Director of the International State Crime Initiative (ISCI). ISCI is a multi-disciplinary, cross-institutional and international initiative that collates, analyses and disseminates research-based knowledge about criminal state practices and resistance to them. ISCI is a collaborative enterprise with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, the University of Hull and the University of Ulster led by Queen Mary University of London.

Professor Green has published widely on state crime, state-corporate crime, natural disasters, Turkish criminal justice and politics, transnational crime and asylum and forced migration.

Back to top