Definition of State Repression

Wikipedia – The Free Encyclopedia – defines State Repression or Political Repression in the following terms:

Political repression is the persecution of an individual or group for political reasons, particularly for the purpose of restricting or preventing their ability to take part in the political life of society. Political repression may be represented by discriminatory policies, human rights violation, surveillance abuse, police brutality, imprisonment, involuntary settlement, stripping of citizen’s rights, and violent action such as the murder, summary executions, torture, forced disappearance and other extrajudicial punishment of political activists, dissidents, or general population.

Where political repression is sanctioned and organised by the state, it may constitute state terrorism, genocide, politicide or crimes against humanity. Systemic and violent political repression is a typical feature of dictatorships, totalitarian states and similar regimes. In such regimes, acts of political repression may be carried out by secret police forces, army, paramilitary groups or death squads. Relevant activities have also been found within democratic contexts as well.

If political repression is not carried out with the approval of the state, a section of government may still be responsible. An example is the FBI COINTELPRO operations in the United States between 1956 and 1971.

In some states, such as the former Soviet Union, “repression” can be an official term and official legal policy of repression with respect to internal political opponents of the state.

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Forced disappearance

A forced disappearance occurs when an organization forces a person to vanish from public view, either by murder or by simple sequestration. The victim is first kidnapped, then illegally detained in concentration camps, often tortured, and finally executed and the corpse hidden. In Spanish and Portuguese, “disappeared people” are called desaparecidos, a term which specifically refers to the mostly South American victims of state terrorism during the 1970s and the 1980s, in particular concerning Operation Condor.

According to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which entered into force on July 1, 2002, when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, “forced disappearances” qualify as a crime against humanity, which thus cannot be subject to statute of limitation.

Typically, a murder will be surreptitious, with the body disposed of in such a way as to never be found. The person apparently vanishes. The party committing the murder has deniability, as there is no body to show that the victim is actually dead. Furthermore, the perpetrators of disappearance often go to great lengths to obscure or eliminate all mention of the disappeared, by altering the historical record and encouraging the silence of surviving relatives. In Chile and Argentina, for example, the infamous “death flights” were used during Operation Condor by the military juntas to dispose of the victims’ bodies at sea. Since the bodies couldn’t be found decades later, those responsible for human right violations claimed that the statute of limitations impeded any trial. However, in Chile, judge Juan Guzmán Tapia would create, by jurisprudence, the felony of “permanent sequestration”: he argued that since the bodies couldn’t be found, the statute of limitations couldn’t be applied since the sequestration continued and was still in effect. Juan Guzmán thus ensured the possibility of bringing to trial some of the Chilean military men involved, even though the amnesty law of 1978 continues to apply, since the democratic government has not yet abrogated it.

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