PO2212 Issues in Contemporary European Politics

Week 10 State Violence and 'Terrorism'



According to The American HeritageŽ Concise Dictionary (1994), violence is
  1. Physical force exerted so as to cause damage, abuse, or injury.
  2. An instance of violent action or behavior.
  3. Intensity or severity: the violence of a hurricane.
  4. Detriment to meaning, content, or intent: do violence to a text.
  5. Vehemence; fervor.
Retrieved 01 December 2003, from xreferplus. http://www.xreferplus.com/entry/721874

The Penguin English Dictionary (2000), defines violence as

  1. (a) exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse, especially unnecessary or unlawful force: An unjust law is itself a species of violence - Mohandas K Gandhi.
    (b) an instance of violent treatment or procedure.
  2. (a) intense or turbulent action or force: They tried to shelter from the violence of the storm.
    (b) vehement feeling or expression, or an instance of such feeling or expression; fervour or forcefulness.
  3. the quality of being abrupt or discordant: I don't like the violence of the contrast in the colours.
Retrieved 01 December 2003, from xreferplus. http://www.xreferplus.com/entry/1184321

Political Violence

"This can be an all-embracing term as violence is ubiquitous; but it is usual to use it only to mean domestic political violence and to exclude 'state violence', violence committed by the state against its citizens, and also repression without physical harm often called 'structural violence'. Hence political violence means rebellion, rioting, looting, sabotage, terrorism and physical conflicts between groups. This last includes communal violence, usually between different ethnic and/or religious groups which, at its worst, can descend into civil war and massacres.
Statistics show that the worst examples have been in Africa and Asia and coincide frequently with autocratic rule. Internal extremes of wealth and poverty are often associated with political violence, especially where economic difference is linked to ethnic difference. Violent groups also seem to emerge in countries which have lost wars so that a decline in national self-esteem may provoke political violence".
The Blackwell Dictionary of Political Science (1999).
Retrieved 29 November 2003, from xreferplus. http://www.xreferplus.com/entry/725637


"The systematic and organized use of violence and intimidation to force a government or community, etc to act in a certain way or accept certain demands".
Chambers 21st Century Dictionary (2001).
Retrieved 29 November 2003, from xreferplus. http://www.xreferplus.com/entry/1232642

"Terrorism is the violence of desperate men. (Very few women are involved.) The term is commonly used to describe small groups of armed assassins and saboteurs who operate in democratic societies. Unable to achieve their aims through persuasion and the ballot box, they resort to bombs, arson and hijacking aircraft. In consequence they often maim and kill innocent people...
Although they may be very few in numbers, terrorists have the capacity to spread fear and insecurity everywhere...
Terrorism against authoritarian regimes may have a larger backing. Economic and/or ethnic groups may become guerrilla organizations, as did peasants and Indians in Central America, and fight what amount to small-scale wars. The state may mount campaigns of what has been called 'state terrorism' against them in which villages are burnt, their inhabitants massacred and known opponents of the regime 'disappear' to torture chambers and unmarked graves. The official view of such activity is that it is 'counter-terrorist'. The insurgents claim they are not terrorists but resistance fighters. The line is not always easy to draw".
The Blackwell Dictionary of Political Science (1999).
Retrieved 29 November 2003, from xreferplus. http://www.xreferplus.com/entry/725872

"A form of politically motivated action combining psychological (fear inducing) and physical (violent action) components carried out by individuals or small groups with the aim of inducing communities or states to meet the terrorists' demands. The concept remains notoriously difficult to define with any precision. The major problem is summarized in the adage that 'one person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter'. The issue is complicated further because some would argue that acts of terrorism do not belong exclusively to the politically motivated but may also be employed by criminals and psychopaths. However, political terrorism can be thought of as the use of violence by a group either acting on behalf of, or in opposition to, an established political authority".
Collins Dictionary of Sociology (2000).
Retrieved 29 November 2003, from xreferplus. http://www.xreferplus.com/entry/1418054

"The threat or use of violence, often against the civilian population, to achieve political ends. Terrorism involves activities such as assassinations, bombings, random killings, hijackings, and skyjackings. It is used for political, not military, purposes, and by groups too weak to mount open assaults".
The Columbia Encyclopedia (2001).
Retrieved 29 November 2003, from xreferplus. http://www.xreferplus.com/entry/820403

"Coercive and violent behaviour undertaken to achieve or promote a particular political objective or cause, often involving the overthrow of established order. Terrorist activity is designed to induce fear through its indiscriminate, arbitrary, and unpredictable acts of violence, often against members of the population at large. It may be 'official', as under Stalin, or 'unofficial', as employed by various opposition or underground movements. Such movements are usually minority groups who feel there are no other means available to them of achieving their objectives. Terrorism may be confined to a specific territory or may have an international dimension, manifest in hijackings and hostage-taking".
Crystal Reference Encyclopedia

Tasks for Students
Read all the definitions above.
Which definition of terrorism do you like best? Why?

State Terrorism

"State terrorism may either take the form of systematic violence by a totalitarian state against particular sectors of its own populace (as in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union), or sponsorship of violence against another state. Iran funds and trains members of the Islamic fundamentalist Hezbollah movement, active in suicide bombings throughout Israel in opposition to the 1993 Palestinian-Israeli peace accord. Libya has long supported terrorist activity against Western states, supplying arms to the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland and being implicated in the bombing of an American airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988".
The Hutchinson Encyclopedia, Helicon (2001).
Retrieved 29 November 2003, from xreferplus. http://www.xreferplus.com/entry/1112644

State Violence

"The modern state is a set of institutions comprising the legislature, executive, central and local administration, judiciary, police and armed forces. Its crucial characteristic is that it acts as the institutional system of political domination and has a monopoly of the legitimate use of violence. In various historical societies, the state was amorphous because the legitimate use of force was diffused; for example, to feudal lords, kinship groups or corporate bodies. The variety of institutions that comprise the modern state indicate that it may not always act as a unitary and homogeneous entity".
Penguin Dictionary of Sociology (1994).
Retrieved 03 December 2003, from xreferplus. http://www.xreferplus.com/entry/105550

According to The American HeritageŽ Concise Dictionary (1994), 'Legitimate' means

  1. Lawful.
  2. Being in accordance with accepted standards.
  3. Reasonable: a legitimate doubt.
  4. Authentic; genuine.
  5. Born of legally married parents.
Retrieved 03 December 2003, from xreferplus. http://www.xreferplus.com/entry/706523

Tasks for Students
Make a list of examples of non-legitimate state violence
What is the basis of your judgement about the legitimacy or otherwise of certain actions?

Here are some examples I found when I did an internet search on 'State Violence'.

Israeli State Violence Against Palestinian Civilians 2002 http://www.labournet.net/world/0203/palest1.html

Relatives for Justice http://www.relativesforjustice.com/shoottokill/shoottokill.htm

What is going on in Colombia? http://www.lfsc.org/colombia2.htm

1997: A Year of continuing violence against Guatemalan Street Children http://boes.org/actions/america/central/casa3.html

I followed up some of the examples and more information can be found on these sites.

Human Rights Watch Report on Police Violence Against Street Children http://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/children/5.htm

'Political impact of Bloody Sunday', BBC online 30 January, 2002 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/1788990.stm

'Shoot-to-kill evidence destroyed', The Guardian, May 23, 2000 http://www.guardian.co.uk/freedom/Story/0,2763,244169,00.html

'Secrecy over shoot-to-kill fear in Gaza', The Observer May 18, 2003 http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,958289,00.html

'Police given 'shoot to kill' orders in new terror alert', The Telegraph, 10/08/2003 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2003/08/10/nterr10.xml

I then started to think that states might claim that such actions were justified by the need to maintain law and order or by the need to wage a 'war' on those who threatened the state. So I started to explore whether any acts could be deemed illegitimate in wartime.

I looked at weapons and the treatment of civilians

'The US Military Starts Using "Daisy Cutters" Against Afghanistan' by Andy Buckley, Centre for Research on Globalisation, 2001 http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/BUC111A.html

'World Health Organisation studies depleted uranium in Iraq', BBC online, 6 January, 2003 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/europe/2001/depleted_uranium/default.stm

Extract from the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, adopted on 12 August 1949
Article 3 "In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:
1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

'Iraq: Questions Regarding the Laws of War', Center for Defense Information, March 18, 2003 http://www.cdi.org/iraq/lawsofwar-pr.cfm (not accessible 2/11/06)

Terrorism in Europe

Baader Meinhof Group

Baader-Meinhof Timeline http://www.baader-meinhof.com/timeline/1977.html

Brief History of the Red Army Fraction http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/61/191.html

Red Brigades


'Red Brigades admit killing', BBC online, 21 March, 2002 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1885002.stm


ETA Timeline by Simon Jeffery, The Guardian July 23, 2003

ETA and Basque separatism in Spain http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,3858,4488896-103701,00.html

Say No to ETA: Citizens against Terrorism http://home.tvd.be/sf15044/etano-eng.html (not accessible 2/11/06)


Loyalist and Republican Paramilitary Groups http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/issues/violence/paramilitary.htm


Al-Qa'ida http://www.ict.org.il/inter_ter/orgdet.cfm?orgid=74



Tasks for Students
Can you put these groups into different categories?
Would you describe any of them as 'extreme left'?

Terrorism of the Extreme Right

"According to the last annual report of the German Security Service (BfV), 10,034 offenses were registered as having either proved or suspected right-wing extremist motives in 1999, compared with 11,049 in 1998. But these included 746 acts of violence in 1999, compared with the 708 in 1998, which means that the acts of violence rose by by 5.4% during the last year".
'Right Wing Terrorism in Germany on the Increase' by Ely Karmon http://www.ict.org.il/articles/articledet.cfm?articleid=119

Tasks for Students
Can you think of examples of extreme right wing terrorism?

Some views from academics

"..both countries faced waves of low-level mass violence, followed by low-level small-group violence culminating in episodes of terrorism.Thousands of violent events occurred in both countries, hundreds of militant activists and dozens of small groups advocated the 'armed struggle' and terrorist organizations wounded and killed, targeting both important politicians and the public". (p. 16)
Della Porta, D. (1995) Social Movements, Political Violence, and the State: a comparative analysis of Italy and Germany Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 322.42094

She makes the following comparison.
In Italy 1969- 1982 left wing extremists held responsible for 1173 episodes of mass violence, 1,792 unclaimed bombings against property, 2188 claimed attacks (272 against people) with 196 injured and 164 killed.
In Germany, 57 people died in left wing terrorist actions, including ther attack at the OPEC meeting in Vienna in 1975 and the Entebbe hijacking in 1976.
1989 Italy, 464 people in prison for political crimes
1992 Germany , 40 people in prison for terrorism-related crimes
Argues that (West) Germany had more open political system than Italy and much more political consensus.

Martha Crenshaw (1998)'The logic of terrorism: terrorist behaviour as a product of strategic choice' in Reich, W. Origins of Terrorism: Psychologies, Ideologies, Theologies, States of Mind, Baltimore & London: John Hopkins University Press 303.625, says
"An organisation or a faction of an organisation may choose terrorism because other methods are not expected to work or are considered too time-consuming, given the urgency of the situation and the government's superior resources." (p. 16)

She goes on to compare the high costs of terrorism

with the advantages She also says that hostage taking is coercive bargaining

Ariel Merari (1998) 'The readiness to kill & die: suicidal terrorism in the Middle East' in Reich, W. Origins of Terrorism: Psychologies, Ideologies, Theologies, States of Mind, Baltimore & London: John Hopkins University Press 303.625, studied 31 cases of suicidal terrorist attacks using car-bombs in Lebanon 1983 - 1986.
These were only a small proportion of terrorist attacks in the region.
In 2 cases perpetrators tricked
Most of the perpetrators were Sunnis from pro-Syrian groups and organised by Syrian intelligence officers - President Assad paid tribute to them.
Only a minority were from fundamentalist Shi'ite groups.
Most were men and all between 16 and 28 - many came from broken family background.

Government Responses to Terrorism in Europe

US Dept of State Patterns of Global Terrorism

Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism Knowledge Base http://www.tkb.org/Home.jsp

Council of Europe Recommendation 1199 (1992) on the fight against international terrorism in Europe http://assembly.coe.int/Documents/AdoptedText/ta92/EREC1199.htm

International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism http://www.ict.org.il/

'UK Terrorism Act 2000: New definition of "terrorism" can criminalise dissent and extra-parliamentary action' from Statewatch http://www.statewatch.org/news/2001/sep/15ukterr.htm

'Liberty Slams Use of Anti Terrorism Act to Suppress Peace Protests - Did the Home Secretary Lie to Parliament?' http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2003/07/274366.html

'Terror policing brings many arrests but few charges' by Institute of Race Relations 5 March 2003 http://www.irr.org.uk/2003/march/ak000002.html

State Violence in Europe

Spain's state-sponsored death squads http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/141720.stm

The stain of Spain's dirty war by Paddy Woodworth http://www.irishdemocrat.co.uk/news/2001/dirty-war/

Amnesty International Report on Spain 1999 http://www.amnesty.org/ailib/aireport/ar99/eur41.htm

Report to the Spanish Government by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment 2001

Public statement by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment concerning the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation 2003

'Torture 'widespread' in parts of Europe says the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)' http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3248557.stm

'Serb 'torture chamber' found' http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/371336.stm

'Revealed: UN-backed unit's reign of terror' http://www.guardian.co.uk/Kosovo/Story/0,2763,193546,00.html

'Kosovo 'disaster response service' stands accused of murder and torture'http://www.balkanpeace.org/index.php?index=/content/library/misc1/fa20000312c.incl

'Left parties condemn state violence in Genoa' http://www.workers.org/ww/2001/genoa0823.php

'Britain keeps silent on state violence in Ireland' by Stuart Ross http://www.greenleft.org.au/back/1999/349/349p14.htm

'Alarm over deaths in custody' The Guardian Tuesday April 1, 2003 http://www.guardian.co.uk/celldeaths/article/0,2763,927126,00.html

Amnesty International report on deaths in police custody in Sweden http://web.amnesty.org/web/ar2002.nsf/eur/sweden?Open

Amnesty International Report on France 1999 http://www.amnesty.org/ailib/aireport/ar99/eur21.htm

Amnesty International Report on Germany 1999 http://www.amnesty.org/ailib/aireport/ar99/eur23.htm

Amnesty International Report on Bulgaria 1999 http://www.amnesty.org/ailib/aireport/ar99/eur15.htm

Amnesty International Report on Russian Federation 1999 http://www.amnesty.org/ailib/aireport/ar99/eur46.htm

Institutionalised racism and human rights abuses: A special investigation into 45 deaths in Europe in 1998 by Campaign against Racism and Fascism http://www.carf.demon.co.uk/deaths98/

Internet resources

A Brief History Of Terrorism by Martin Walker http://www.dansargis.org/Data/A%20Brief%20History%20of%20Terrorism.htm
Guardian Special Report on Aftermath of September 11 http://www.guardian.co.uk/waronterror/0,1361,554660,00.html
The Terrorism Research Center http://www.terrorism.com/index.php
'Why Marxists oppose Individual Terrorism' by Leon Trotsky 1909

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