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

State Crime, Structural Violence and COVID-19


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

Vol. 10, No. 1 (2021) open access

Neve Gordon (Queen Mary University of London) and Penny Green (Queen Mary University of London)

Three weeks after the COVID-19 outbreak, the Hungarian parliament conferred formidable executive powers on Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, allowing him to rule by decree (Guardian 2020). In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that surveillance tools developed by the secret services to monitor Palestinians in the occupied territories would be used to track citizens infected with coronavirus (Tidy 2020). Meanwhile, the Chilean government sent the military to public squares that had until recently been occupied by protesters, while in the Philippines police arrested over 40,000 people within the first 11 days of the country’s lockdown on charges of violating quarantine policies (Gebrekidan 2020; Cheng 2020). These are worrying trends. While the introduction of emergency measures to address the global pandemic is undoubtedly necessary, such forms of intervention underscore how many governments have exploited the COVID-19 crisis to introduce measures that undermine democratic principles and violate the civil and political rights of both citizens and migrants. Such state crimes are characterised by government over-reach where the executive arm uses its powers to undercut basic freedoms.

Yet the crimes of government over-reach have, to a significant extent, been overshadowed by more structural and attritional forms of violence—less commonly understood as state crimes. We frame these largely structural crimes as products of government under-reach…(read more)