Political crime

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In criminology, a political crime or political offence is an offence involving overt acts or omissions (where there is a duty to act), which prejudice the interests of the state, its government, or the political system. It is to be distinguished from state crime, in which it is the states that break both their own criminal laws or public international law. [1]

Criminology science about the causes and manifestations of crime

Criminology is the scientific study of the nature, extent, management, causes, control, consequences, and prevention of criminal behavior, both on individual and social levels. Criminology is an interdisciplinary field in both the behavioral and social sciences, which draws primarily upon the research of sociologists, psychologists, philosophers, psychiatrists, biologists, social anthropologists, as well as scholars of law.

Crime illegal behavior defined by existing criminal law

In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority. The term "crime" does not, in modern criminal law, have any simple and universally accepted definition, though statutory definitions have been provided for certain purposes. The most popular view is that crime is a category created by law; in other words, something is a crime if declared as such by the relevant and applicable law. One proposed definition is that a crime or offence is an act harmful not only to some individual but also to a community, society, or the state. Such acts are forbidden and punishable by law.

State (polity) Organised community living under a system of government; either a sovereign state, constituent state, or federated state

A state is a polity that is typically established as a centralized organisation. There is no undisputed definition of a state. Max Weber's definition of a state as a polity that maintains a monopoly on the use of violence is widely used, as are many others.

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States will define as political crimes any behaviour perceived as a threat, real or imagined, to the state's survival, including both violent and non-violent oppositional crimes. A consequence of such criminalisation may be that a range of human rights, civil rights, and freedoms are curtailed, and conduct which would not normally be considered criminal per se (in other words, that is not antisocial according to those who engage in it) is criminalised at the convenience of the group holding power.

Human rights Inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled

Human rights are moral principles or norms that describe certain standards of human behaviour and are regularly protected as natural and legal rights in municipal and international law. They are commonly understood as inalienable, fundamental rights "to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being" and which are "inherent in all human beings", regardless of their nation, location, language, religion, ethnic origin, or any other status. They are applicable everywhere and at every time in the sense of being universal, and they are egalitarian in the sense of being the same for everyone. They are regarded as requiring empathy and the rule of law and imposing an obligation on persons to respect the human rights of others, and it is generally considered that they should not be taken away except as a result of due process based on specific circumstances; for example, human rights may include freedom from unlawful imprisonment, torture, and execution.

Thus, there may be a question of the morality of a law which simply criminalises ordinary political dissent, [2] even though the majority of those who support the current regime may consider criminalisation of politically motivated behaviour an acceptable response when the offender is driven by more extreme political, ideological, religious or other beliefs,

Morality differentiation of intentions, decisions and actions between those that are distinguished as proper and those that are improper

Morality is the differentiation of intentions, decisions and actions between those that are distinguished as proper and those that are improper. Morality can be a body of standards or principles derived from a code of conduct from a particular philosophy, religion or culture, or it can derive from a standard that a person believes should be universal. Morality may also be specifically synonymous with "goodness" or "rightness".

Political dissent refers to any expression designed to convey dissatisfaction with or opposition to the policies of a governing body. Such expression may take forms from vocal disagreement to civil disobedience to the use of violence. In most democratic countries, non-violent demonstration and disagreement with the government are regarded as fundamental human rights.

Overview

At one extreme, crimes such as treason, sedition, and terrorism are political because they represent a direct challenge to the government in power. Espionage is usually considered a political crime. [3] But offenders do not have to aim to overthrow the government or to depose its leaders to be acting in a way perceived as "political". A state may perceive it threatening if individuals advocate change to the established order, or argue the need for reform of long-established policies, or engage in acts signifying some degree of disloyalty, e.g. by burning the nation's flag in public. But the scope of such crimes can be rather less direct.

Treason Crime against ones sovereign or nation

In law, treason is criminal disloyalty to the state. It is a crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's nation or sovereign. This usually includes things such as participating in a war against one's native country, attempting to overthrow its government, spying on its military, its diplomats, or its secret services for a hostile and foreign power, or attempting to kill its head of state. A person who commits treason is known in law as a traitor.

Sedition is overt conduct, such as speech and organization, that tends toward insurrection against the established order. Sedition often includes subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent towards, or resistance against established authority. Sedition may include any commotion, though not aimed at direct and open violence against the laws. Seditious words in writing are seditious libel. A seditionist is one who engages in or promotes the interest of sedition.

Terrorism intentional violence, generally against civilians, for political purposes

Terrorism is, in the broadest sense, the use of intentional violence, generally against civilians, for political purposes. It is used in this regard primarily to refer to violence during peacetime or in context of war against non-combatants. The terms "terrorist" and "terrorism" originated during the French Revolution of the late 18th century but gained mainstream popularity in the 1970s in news reports and books covering the conflicts in Northern Ireland, the Basque Country and Palestine. The increased use of suicide attacks from the 1980s onwards was typified by the September 11 attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. in 2001.

Structural functionist criminologists recognise that states invest their resources in maintaining order through social conformity, i.e. a particular culture is encouraged and maintained through the primary social discourses which may include religious, economic, social, or other less formal concerns. Any interference with the media of communication or the sets of meanings embedded in the communications themselves may be perceived as a threat to the political authority of the state. Hence, whether in hard copy or electronically, if individuals distribute material containing uncensored information which undermines the credibility of state-controlled news media, this may be considered threatening.

Structural functionalism A sociological theory arguing that the stability of society is determined by functional institutions and individuals having a specific role

Structural functionalism, or simply functionalism, is "a framework for building theory that sees society as a complex system whose parts work together to promote solidarity and stability".

Culture Social behavior and norms found in society

Culture is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior and norms found in human societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities and habits of the individuals in these groups.

Moreover, even an offence against non-governmental institutions, persons, or practices may be deemed political. Violence or even discrimination against an ethnic or racial group, as well trade union strikes or picketing against private employers, can be perceived as a political crime when those in power see such conduct as undermining the political (and economic) stability of the state. In this context, note that the Law Enforcement Code of Conduct passed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police says in part: "The fundamental duties of a police officer include serving the community, safeguarding lives and property, protecting the innocent, keeping the peace and ensuring the rights of all to liberty, equality and justice" (cited in Robinson, 2002). This code requires that police behave in a courteous and fair manner, that they treat all citizens in a respectable and decent manner, and that they never use unnecessary force. When they do, it is argued that this constitutes a crime (e.g. as an assault) and, if it is institutionalised, then over time, the use of unnecessary force become a state crime.

Trade union Organization of workers with common goals

A trade union is an association of workers forming a legal unit or legal personhood, usually called a "bargaining unit", which acts as bargaining agent and legal representative for a unit of employees in all matters of law or right arising from or in the administration of a collective agreement. Labour unions typically fund the formal organization, head office, and legal team functions of the labour union through regular fees or union dues. The delegate staff of the labour union representation in the workforce are made up of workplace volunteers who are appointed by members in democratic elections.

Strike action Work stoppage caused by the mass refusal of employees to work

Strike action, also called labor strike, labour strike, or simply strike, is a work stoppage, caused by the mass refusal of employees to work. A strike usually takes place in response to employee grievances. Strikes became common during the Industrial Revolution, when mass labor became important in factories and mines. In most countries, strike actions were quickly made illegal, as factory owners had far more power than workers. Most Western countries partially legalized striking in the late 19th or early 20th centuries.

An assault is the act of inflicting physical harm or unwanted physical contact upon a person or, in some specific legal definitions, a threat or attempt to commit such an action. It is both a crime and a tort and, therefore, may result in either criminal and/or civil liability. Generally, the common law definition is the same in criminal and tort law.

Marxist criminologists argue that most political crime arises from the efforts of the state to reproduce the structures of inequality: racism, sexism, ethnic preference as well as class advantages. Thus, states will protect property rights and reduce the rights of trade unions to represent the interests of the poor. Even war could be grounded in the problems of local capitalists in wealthy countries in the effort to move raw materials, profits and jobs in a globalised political economy, and opposing such a war will be a political crime. Marxists do not dispute that, for a society to function efficiently, social order is necessary. But they consider that, in all societies, one class, usually characterised as the "ruling class", gains far more than other classes. Marxists agree with functionalists that socialisation plays a crucial role in promoting conformity and order. However, unlike the latter, they are highly critical of the ideas, values and norms of "capitalist ideology". Modern Marxists point to education and the media as socialising agencies, which delude or "mystify" the working class into conforming to a social order, which works against its real interests. Thus, all controls which directly or indirectly explit the criminal law to control access to the discourses are political crimes.

Authoritarian governments

Miller says that one of the defining characteristics of power in modern history has been the rationalisation and bureaucratisation of law. Legal codification, or at least debates over the merits of legal codification, became an almost global phenomenon in the nineteenth century as state power was centralised. In particular, the rationalisation of criminal law standardised not just the concept of crime, but was adopted as the means to eliminate the "deviant" as a threat to a modern, uniform, moral standard. In this, the religious establishment began to play a new role in defining "evil" in which threats to the political or social norm became as dangerous as threats to religious orthodoxy. Thus, political speech became one of the most likely activities to be criminalised. The freedom of association and to meet may also be criminalised if the purpose is to express oppositional political views.

Because a political offender may be fighting against a tyrannical government, treaties have usually specified that a person cannot be extradited for a political offense. Thomas Jefferson wrote: [4]

Specific crimes

Terrorism

People convicted or suspected of certain crimes classified as terrorism by the government of their country (or some foreign countries) reject that classification. They consider that their fight is a legitimate one using legitimate means, and thus their crimes should be more appropriately called political crimes and justify special treatment in the penal system (as if they were soldiers in a war and therefore covered by the Geneva Convention). States tend to consider the political nature of the crimes an aggravating factor in the sentencing process and make no distinction between the terrorists and "ordinary" offenders, e.g. the convicted murderers of Action Directe consider themselves political prisoners.

Religious crimes

Where there is no clear separation between the state and the prevailing religion, the edicts of the church may be codified as law and enforced by the secular policing and judicial authorities. This is a highly functionalist mechanism for enforcing conformity in all aspects of cultural life and the use of the label "crime" adds an extra layer of stigma to those convicted.

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Extradition is an act where one jurisdiction delivers a person accused or convicted of committing a crime in another jurisdiction, over to their law enforcement. It is a cooperative law enforcement process between the two jurisdictions and depends on the arrangements made between them. Besides the legal aspects of the process, extradition also involves the physical transfer of custody of the person being extradited to the legal authority of the requesting jurisdiction.

<i>Youth Criminal Justice Act</i>

The Youth Criminal Justice Act is a Canadian statute, which came into effect on April 1, 2003. It covers the prosecution of youths for criminal offences. The Act replaced the Young Offenders Act, which itself was a replacement for the Juvenile Delinquents Act.

Blue-collar crime Totality of all offenses committed by the lower social classes

In criminology, blue-collar crime is any crime committed by an individual from a lower social class as opposed to white-collar crime which is associated with crime committed by someone of a higher-level social class. While blue-collar crime has no official legal classification, it holds to a general net group of crimes. These crimes are primarily small scale, for immediate beneficial gain to the individual or group involved in them. This can also include personal related crimes that can be driven by immediate reaction, such as during fights or confrontations. These crimes include but are not limited to: Narcotic production or distribution, sexual assault, theft, burglary, assault or murder.

Articles related to criminology and law enforcement.

Criminal jurisdiction is a term used in constitutional law and public law to describe the power of courts to hear a case brought by a state accusing a defendant of the commission of a crime. It is relevant in three distinct situations:

  1. to regulate the relationship between states, or between one state and another;
  2. where the nation is a federation, to regulate the relationship between the federal courts and the domestic courts of those states comprising the federation; and
  3. where a state only has, to a greater or lesser extent, a single and unified system of law, it is the law of criminal procedure to regulate what cases each classification of court within the judicial system shall adjudicate upon. People must be tried in the same state the crime is committed.
Criminalization

Criminalization or criminalisation, in criminology, is "the process by which behaviors and individuals are transformed into crime and criminals". Previously legal acts may be transformed into crimes by legislation or judicial decision. However, there is usually a formal presumption in the rules of statutory interpretation against the retrospective application of laws and only the use of express words by the legislature may rebut this presumption. The power of judges to make new law and retrospectively criminalise behaviour is also discouraged. In a less overt way, where laws have not been strictly enforced, the acts prohibited by those laws may also undergo de facto criminalization through more effective or committed legal enforcement.

Critical criminology

Critical criminology is a theoretical perspective in criminology which focuses on challenging traditional understandings and uncovering false beliefs about crime and criminal justice, often but not exclusively by taking a conflict perspective, such as Marxism, feminism, political economy theory or critical theory. Critical criminology frequently takes a perspective of examining the genesis of crime and nature of 'justice' within the social structure of a class and status inequalities. Law and punishment of crime are viewed as connected to a system of social inequality and as the means of producing and perpetuating this inequality. Critical criminology also seeks to delve into the foundations of criminological research to unearth any biases.

State crime

In criminology, state crime is activity or failures to act that break the state's own criminal law or public international law. For these purposes, Ross (2000b) defines a "state" as the elected and appointed officials, the bureaucracy, and the institutions, bodies and organisations comprising the apparatus of the government. Initially, the state was the agency of deterrence, using the threat of punishment as a utilitarian tool to shape the behaviour of its citizens. Then, it became the mediator, interpreting society's wishes for conflict resolution. Theorists then identified the state as the "victim" in victimless crimes. Now, theorists are examining the role of the state as one of the possible perpetrators of crime whether directly or in the context of state-corporate crime.

Marxist criminology

Marxist criminology is one of the schools of criminology. It parallels the work of the structural functionalism school which focuses on what produces stability and continuity in society but, unlike the functionalists, it adopts a predefined political philosophy. As in conflict criminology, it focuses on why things change, identifying the disruptive forces in industrialized societies, and describing how society is divided by power, wealth, prestige, and the perceptions of the world. "The shape and character of the legal system in complex societies can be understood as deriving from the conflicts inherent in the structure of these societies which are stratified economically and politically". It is concerned with the causal relationships between society and crime, i.e. to establish a critical understanding of how the immediate and structural social environment gives rise to crime and criminogenic conditions.

Integrative criminology

Integrative criminology reacts against single theory or methodology approaches, and adopts an interdisciplinary paradigm for the study of criminology and penology. Integration is not new. It informed the groundbreaking work of Merton (1938), Sutherland (1947), and Cohen (1955), but it has become a more positive school over the last twenty years.

Deterrence (penology) the use of punishment as a threat to deter people from offending

Deterrence in relation to criminal offending is the idea or theory that the threat of punishment will deter people from committing crime and reduce the probability and/or level of offending in society. It is one of five objectives that punishment is thought to achieve; the other four objectives are denunciation, incapacitation, retribution and rehabilitation.

Sociology of punishment academic field that seeks to understand why and how we punish

The sociology of punishment seeks to understand why and how we punish; the general justifying aim of punishment and the principle of distribution. Punishment involves the intentional infliction of pain and/or the deprivation of rights and liberties. Sociologists of punishment usually examine state-sanctioned acts in relation to law-breaking; why, for instance, citizens give consent to the legitimation of acts of violence.

Laws against child sexual abuse vary by country based on the local definition of who a child is and what constitutes child sexual abuse. Most countries in the world employ some form of age of consent, with sexual contact with an underage person being criminally penalized. As the age of consent to sexual behaviour varies from country to country, so too do definitions of child sexual abuse. An adult's sexual intercourse with a minor below the legal age of consent may sometimes be referred to as statutory rape, based on the principle that any apparent consent by a minor could not be considered legal consent.

Crime in New Zealand encompasses criminal law, crime statistics, the nature and characteristics of crime, sentencing, punishment, and public perceptions of crime. New Zealand criminal law has its origins in English criminal law, which was codified into statute by the New Zealand parliament in 1893. Although New Zealand remains a common law jurisdiction, all criminal offences and their penalties are codified in New Zealand statutes.

Radical criminology states that society "functions" in terms of the general interests of the ruling class rather than "society as a whole" and that while the potential for conflict is always present, it is continually neutralized by the power of a ruling class. Radical criminology is related to critical and conflict criminology in its focus on class struggle and its basis in Marxism. Radical criminologists consider crime to be a tool used by the ruling class. Laws are put into place by the elite and are then used to serve their interests at the peril of the lower classes. These laws regulate opposition to the elite and keep them in power.

The Council of Europe Convention on the Counterfeiting of Medical Products and Similar Crimes involving Threats to Public Health is an international criminal law convention of the Council of Europe addressing the falsification of medicines and medical devices.

Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 United Kingdom legislation

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) is a statute of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, creating reforms to the justice system. The bill for the act was introduced in the House of Commons on 21 June 2011, and received Royal Assent on 1 May 2012.

A political offence exception is a provision which limits the obligation of a sovereign state under an extradition or mutual legal assistance treaty or statute. Such provisos allow the state whose assistance has been requested to refuse to hand over a suspect to — or to gather evidence on behalf of — another state, if the requested party's competent authority determines that the requesting party seeks assistance in order to prosecute an offence of a political character.

Squatters' Action for Secure Homes (SQUASH) is an activist group formed first in the 1990s in the United Kingdom to represent the interests of squatters and to fight the proposed criminalisation of squatting. It then reformed in 2011, when there were again parliamentary discussions about making squatting illegal. After squatting was (partially) criminalised in 2012, the group continues to monitor arrests and convictions.

References

  1. Ross, 2000.
  2. Ross, 2004.
  3. "Sweden: extradition of US spy suspect 'unlikely'". The Local . 27 April 2013. 'If it's a political offence, you can't extradite a person' to a country outside the EU, said Per Clareus, a spokesman for Swedish Justice Minister Beatrice Ask. 'And espionage is usually considered a political crime,' he added.
  4. Jefferson, Thomas. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson: Correspondence.