Between “1900 [and] 1987 over 169 million people [were] murdered by governments” (Green, P. and Ward, T. 2004, p.1). In order to prosecute state crimes such as human rights violations and environmental crime, state-organized crime must be denoted. Firstly, the state must be defined as a legitimate and sovereign entity. A state can be depicted as a “public power” with a set of individuals prepared to use force to create and expand “prisons and institutions of coercion of all kinds and agencies which levy taxes” (Green, P. and Ward, T. 2004, p.3) or as Webber claimed “in terms of specific means… namely, the [legitimate] use of physical force” (Whyte, D. 2009, p.13). A legitimate state is one that behaves according to the laws set down for its citizens and itself and has laws that are perceived as “justified… beliefs” (Green, P. and Ward, T. 2004, p.3). Thus a state must have a legitimate “monopoly… [over] the legitimate use of force within a given territory” (Whyte, D. 2009, p.13). This “monopoly” on the use of force to maintain political and economic power led Whyte to claim, “there is no head of state… who… is not virtually a criminal” (2009, p.25) as the prosecution of the individual or of the state may be “contrary to the interests of the enforcing agency” (Green, P. and Ward, T. 2000, p.102). Further, crime must be defined as “murder, rape, robbery, burglary, theft, drug offenses and… fraud” or “an act in violation to the law” (Chambliss, W. J. et al. 2010, p.13). This definition of crime clearly refers to crime on the individual level, but provides a point from which to postulate how states can perpetrate such acts. This may answer St Augustine’s inquiry “What are states without justice but robber bands enlarged?” (Green, P. and Ward, T. 2004, p.1).

After conceptualizing a concise definition of both the legitimate state and individual crime, it is possible to analyze Chambliss’s definition of state-organized crime. The implications of defining state-organized crime are vast, including the “fram[ing],” “investigation,” and “prosecution” of law, the way in which research is conducted, and whether or not “mutual legal assistance across national borders is… rendered” (Allum, F. and Gilmour, A. 2012, p.8). Chambliss denoted state-organized crime as “acts defined by law as criminal and committed by state officials in the pursuit of their job as representatives of the state” (1989, p.184). However, there is a multitude of definitions of state-organized crime, perhaps as many “as there are writers on the subject, and little consensus” between them (Ebbe, O. N. I. 1999, p.30). Defining state-organized crime is easily problematized as each definition has limitations, or risks excessive breadth (Green, P. and Ward, T. 2000, p.101). Chambliss’s 1989 definition, Green and Ward’s definition, and their individual limitations and overarching limitations will be discussed in this paper.


The Chambliss 1989 Definition

Chambliss acknowledged there are multiple ways in which scholars approach conceptualizing state crime. State crime is often initially thought of as “war crimes, genocide and terrorism,” but state crime has a much larger scope than these “high profile” “atrocities” (Chambliss, W. J. et al. 2010, p.13; 23). Two independently standing definitions which have broadened the lens through which state crime can be viewed include: state behaviors that have “been prosecuted at a national or international level… or have violated national or international law” and “all of the harms and social injuries” that are a product of the link between political and economic gain (Chambliss, W. J. et al. 2010, p.13). Only acts that “violate existing criminal law and are official policy” are included under the denotation of state-organized crime (Chambliss, W. J. 1989, p.184). Chambliss’s own definition of state crime, one that hinges on the individual perpetrators within the state is discussed in his 1989 article (Chambliss, W. J. 1989, p.184). It is not a crime committed on the international level to benefit individuals who hold government office, or the crimes against local populations by the police because these are not the “institutionalized policy of the state” (Chambliss, W. J. 1989, p.184). He postulates that “the legal prescriptions and the agreed goals of state agencies,” conflict with each other and cause state crime on an institutional level (Chambliss, W. J. 1989, p.184). He also notes that conflicts lie in “political, economic, and social relations,” which change with both geography and time (Chambliss, W. J. 1989, p.201).

Chambliss’s definition has limitations, despite its applicability. “Post-colonial and feminists theorists have argued that UN-sponsored international law” is merely a representation of the political will “of white, Western, liberalism” instead of a global representation for the rights and representation of entire populations (Kramer, R. C., and Michalowski, R. J. 2005, p.447). Laws are created and sculpted by political and monetary motives “rather than straightforward codification of universal social norms” (Chambliss, W. J. et al. 2010, p.14). Thus, laws are created for those who hold power and whom stand to suffer from the prosecution of the state. It is therefore unlikely that the state will be prosecuted, or have a precedent of prosecution as it would be against these individuals interests.

Chambliss evaluated juridical, organizational deviance, and social harm or injury “models for defining state crime” according to their “strengths and weaknesses” (Chambliss, W. J. et al. 2010, p.20). Firstly, the juridical model is heavily based on laws and judicial power to define state-organized crime. While this is the most likely of the three to be funded for research, and the most empirical, Chambliss admits that the juridical model narrows the opportunities to prosecute state crime as states regularly fail to prosecute “their own political and economic wrongdoing” (Chambliss, W. J. et al. 2010, p.20). Secondly, the organizational deviance model is based upon sociological norms and is, therefore, not hindered by “laws… created by politically animated entities” (Chambliss, W. J. et al. 2010, p.20). However, this approach necessitates an activist audience that is less inclined towards prosecuting a “straightforward law violation” (Chambliss, W. J. et al. 2010, p.20). Thirdly, the social injury and harm model has the “broadest analytic scope,” which can be used to “address political-economic intersections” (Chambliss, W. J. et al. 2010, p.20). The interaction between politics and economic benefit is part of almost every aspect of culture, but its analysis largely rests upon the agenda of the researcher. Much of the research in the field of international relations is funded by government contracts, which will create a biased outcome on all occasions (Walters, R. 2007, p.24).

Chambliss warned “judicial framework” model could hinder “state crime analysis” as it may become more about the exceptions to law than the provisions (Chambliss, W. J. et al. 2010, p.18). For example, the trials at Guantanamo Bay were called into question by Amnesty International, but the United States (US) rebutted that it is under no obligation to adhere to the United States Constitution, which includes the right to “public trial” and “all the guarantees necessary for his defense” in Cuba as the US Constitution only applies on US soil and that the trials do not violate the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Chambliss, W. J. et al. 2010, p.18). As the United Nations has not prosecuted the United States, Guantanamo Bay is perceived as legal in international law. Kramer and Michalowski expound upon this by stating that Chambliss’s 1989 definition constricted the prosecution of state crimes to specific “harms that political states had chosen to criminalize” and, as states rarely prosecute themselves, is ineffective (2005, p.447). Chambliss later amended his definition to incorporate acts that “violate international agreements and principles established in the courts and treaties of international bodies,’” but this does not aid in cases such as that of Guantanamo Bay (Kramer, R. C., and Michalowski, R. J. 2005, p.447).

Sellin postulated crime should be thought of as a “violation of ‘conduct norms’” rather than a violation of “rules” as per the Chambliss’s organizational deviance model (Chambliss, W. J. et al. 2010, p.15). This concept has been used to justify the prosecution of actions on many levels, which are not “expressly prohibited by law”, but are significantly close to crimes recognized by law and are perceived by “social movements [and]… sub-segments of populations” as criminal (Chambliss, W. J. et al. 2010, p.15). However, entire populations are rarely able to maintain “a consensus… on… societal norms,” which may cause criminal prosecutions to be controversial in the eyes of many, especially regarding state-organized crime that crosses state borders (Rothe, D. L., and Mullins, C. W. 2011, p.vii). This definition is particularly helpful in the prosecution of states, as it does not stipulate precedents of law violation or the violation of law itself. While this definition is hard to prove legally, it is successful in preventing states from creating laws of convenience.


Green, P. and Ward T. Definition

According to Green and Ward, state-organized crime can be denoted as “state organizational deviance involving the violation of human rights” (2004, p.2). In this definition, deviance is defined as the violation of societal norms, which is closely joined with both Chambliss’s social injury and harm model and organizational deviance model (Green, P. and Ward, T. 2004, p.4). Organizational deviance must “integrate structural, organisational and social psychological factors,” or perhaps more clearly, include “pressure for goal attainment, availability, and perceived attractiveness” (Green, P. and Ward, T. 2004 p.6). The model of organizational deviance also includes “corporate crime, organized crime, and… crime by… non-profit bodies” as well as crime committed by states (Green, P. and Ward, T. 2004, p.5). State level deviance is determined by academics who analyze the behavior of the international system at the international, state, and individual level and are capable of finding norms imbedded in laws and behavior (Green, P. and Ward, T. 2004 p.1). Some of these norms include those that “define universal human rights [and]… principles of justice” (Green, P. and Ward, T. 2004, p.2). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights defined the norms of human rights through the United Nations, making human rights the “best available global standard for distinguishing between legal and illegal state actions” (Kramer, R. C. and Michalowski, R. J. 2005, p.447). However, as the state is able to escape prosecution of social injury by using the law, one must question whether or not human rights law is the “will of the powerful” or is only acted upon when convenient for the state (Chambliss, W. J. et al. 2010, p.14).

Cox claimed, “global hegemony” is illustrated by states that “lay down general rules… for [less populated or less developed] states” through a series of normalized behaviors and institutions (Green, P. and Ward, T. 2004, p.9). Thus, the behaviors from which states deviate from to commit state crime are created by the larger, more powerful states in the international system. The distinction between St Augustine’s “robber bands” and unjust states is that states are able to claim what is and is not just through the judicial system and determine “who is a robber and who is a tax-collector” (Green, P. and Ward, T. 2004, p.1). Therefore, if a state is able to use legitimate force to enact a law that it has created, it may commit a crime on the international level before committing one on the state level (Kramer, R. C. and Michalowski, R. J. 2005, p.447). For example, “Adolf Eichmann was a model law-abiding citizen of the Third Reich… arranging the extermination of Jews even in the face of ‘criminal’ orders to the contrary” (Green, P. and Ward, T. 2000, p.102). He was deliberately committing an international crime as an individual on the state level, but was not violating domestic law. A further limitation of this definition lies within the varying definitions of deviance. Becker argues deviance is created through the “application of a rule to an act” (Green, P. and Ward, T. 2004, p.4). The audience must choose to “accept a certain rule as a standard of behaviour… [and] interpret the act… as violating the rule” before the act is considered sufficiently deviant (Green, P. and Ward, T. 2004, p.4). As many populations have little to no say in the prosecution of state crime, one might question how the International Criminal Court, or said power, can claim that an act is deviant according to their standards. Chambliss also noted this limitation on the nature of organizational deviance, as it requires an activist audience to prosecute the crime (Chambliss, W. J. et al. 2010, p.20).


Overarching Limitations

In this paper, Chambliss’s and Green and Ward’s definitions and limitations to state crime have been discussed, however, there are further definitions that must be remarked upon. The analysis of state crime must include research into the linkages between states and non-state groups “such as paramilitary groups, militias, private contractors, corporations and transnational financial bodies” according to Stanley (2007, pp.169-70). This is essential in the analysis of human rights violations as individuals, organizations, and states perpetrate these violations and thereby committing state-organized crime (Stanley, E. 2007, p.168). Thus, one must consider whether crime on the international level is restricted to state crime, or is inclusive of third party crime. Chambliss notes that state-organized crime is similar to the generic “criminality of police and law enforcement agencies” (1989, p.204). This is due to clashing institutional demands and aims of both states and intrastate agencies. One critical demand on the state is to “provide a climate and a set of international relations that facilitate… [the] accumulation… of capital,” as this “determines… power, wealth, and survival” as a modern capitalist state (Chambliss, W. J. 1989, p.202). Garland notes, the 21st century governance is inclined towards “economic forms of reasoning,” but this is made more poignant by Chambliss’s claim that research on state crime is an essential of the discipline of international relations in the 21st century (Garland, D. 2003, p.457) (Barak, G. 1991, p.10).

A cohesive definition that is agreed upon within the discipline of international relations has yet to be reached as every definition contains limitations. Upon defining the state, crime, and deviance, the area may be explored academically. In order to prosecute a state for committing a crime, the juridical hemisphere must align with that of those who are victims. Chambliss chose to describe state-organized crime as “acts defined by law as criminal and committed by state officials in the pursuit of their job as representatives of the state;” however, he recognized that by synthesizing a definition he imposed limits on how the state could be prosecuted for crimes committed (1989, p.184). Green and Ward’s definition restricts state crimes to exclusively deal with crime involving human rights violations which precludes the prosecution of the state from environmental crime, state-corporate crime, and further types of crime that are sure to exist within the international system. The process of defining state-organized crime is a paradox, as the definition will both create an opportunity for state-organized crime to exist and allow it to be prosecuted.



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