ISCI is a cross-disciplinary research centre working to further our understanding of state crime: organisational deviance violating human rights

Amplified Vulnerabilities and Reconfigured Relations: COVID-19, Torture Prevention and Human Rights in the Global South


State Crime Journal Special Issue on the COVID-19 Pandemic and State Crime

Vol. 10, No. 1 (2021) – open access

Andrew M. Jefferson, Giorgio Caracciolo, Jeanette Kørner and Nina Nordberg


The COVID-19 pandemic has reconfigured personal, organisational and political landscapes in quite radical ways. This paper reflects on the differentiated impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and responses to it. We unpack some of the effects of the crisis on populations already subject to harassment, persecution and deprivation due to their marginal position in society or their resistance to state power. We illuminate how the current crisis is much more than a health crisis; the ways it exacerbates already existing deprivations; and how it might reveal hitherto unrecognised opportunities through which to make the world a more, rather than less, just and equitable place. Focus is on the way the crisis calls forth amplified forms of repression and consonantly amplified forms of vulnerability as well as reconfigured spaces for the operation of civil society organisations. We forward one key proposition, namely that while securitised responses to the crisis reveal an inherent conservatism, civil society responses reveal an agility and a capacity to innovate. While the inherent conservatism of securitised responses gives cause for serious concern, there is some hope to be found in the potential for innovation of civil society organisations. The revelation of humankind’s shared vulnerability that is a feature of the crisis may serve as a springboard for the propagation of progressive change if we keep in mind the fundamentally human, and thus relational, nature of human rights and anti-torture work…(read more)