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Political violence is a common means used by people and governments around the world to achieve political goals. Many groups and individuals believe that their political systems will never respond to their political demands. As a result, they believe that violence is not only justified but also necessary in order to achieve their political objectives. By the same token, many governments around the world believe they need to use violence in order to intimidate their populace into acquiescence. At other times, governments use force in order to defend their country from outside invasion or other threats of force and to coerce other governments or conquer territory. Political violence can take a number of forms including but not limited to those listed below. Non-action on the part of the government can also be characterized as a form of political violence.
One form of political violence is genocide. Genocide is commonly defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars. Genocide is typically carried out with either the overt or covert support of the governments of those countries engaged in genocidal activities. The Holocaust is the most often cited historical example of genocide.
Human rights violations
Human rights violations occur when basic human rights (including civil, political, cultural, social, and economic rights) are abused, ignored or denied. Furthermore, violations of human rights can occur when any state or non-state actor breaches any part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights treaty or other international human rights or humanitarian law. In regard to human rights violations of United Nations laws, Article 39 of the United Nations Charter designates the UN Security Council (or an appointed authority) as the only tribunal that may determine UN human rights violations.
Human rights abuses are monitored by United Nations committees, national institutions and governments and by many independent non-governmental organizations, such as Amnesty International, International Federation of Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, World Organisation Against Torture, Freedom House, International Freedom of Expression Exchange and Anti-Slavery International. These organisations collect evidence and documentation of alleged human rights abuses and apply pressure to enforce human rights laws.
Wars of aggression, war crimes and crimes against humanity, including genocide, are breaches of International humanitarian law and represent the most serious of human rights violations. In efforts to eliminate violations of human rights, building awareness and protesting inhumane treatment has often led to calls for action and sometimes improved conditions. The UN Security Council has interceded with peace-keeping forces and other states have intervened in situations ostensibly to protect human rights.
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political communities, and therefore is defined as a form of political violence. Three of the ten most costly wars, in terms of loss of life, have been waged in the last century: the death toll of World War II, estimated at more than 60 million, surpasses all other war death tolls by a factor of two. It is estimated that 378,000 people died due to war each year between 1985 and 1994.
Police brutality is another form of political violence. It is most commonly described in juxtaposition with the term excessive force. Police brutality can be defined as "a civil rights violation that occurs when a police officer acts with excessive force by using an amount of force with regards to a civilian that is more than necessary." Police brutality and the use of excessive force are present throughout the world and in the United States alone, 4,861 incidences of police misconduct were reported during 2010 (see also Police brutality (United States)). Of these, there were 6,826 victims involved and 247 fatalities.
Counter-insurgency, another form of political violence, describes a spectrum of actions taken by the recognized government of a state to contain or quell an insurgency taken up against it. There are a many different doctrines, theories, and tactics espoused regarding counter-insurgency that aim to protect the authority of the government and to reduce or eliminate the supplanting authority of the insurgents. Because it may be difficult or impossible to distinguish between an insurgent, a supporter of an insurgency who is a non-combatant, and entirely uninvolved members of the population, counter-insurgency operations have often rested on a confused, relativistic, or otherwise situational distinction between insurgents and non-combatants. Counter-insurgency operations are common during war, occupation and armed rebellions.
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain (whether physical or psychological) as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Torture is prohibited under international law and the domestic laws of most countries in the 21st century. It is considered a human rights violation and is declared unacceptable by Article 5 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Signatories of the Third Geneva Convention and Fourth Geneva Convention have officially agreed not to torture prisoners in armed conflicts. National and international legal prohibitions on torture derive from a consensus that torture and similar ill-treatment are immoral, as well as impractical. Despite international conventions, torture cases continue to arise such as the 2004 Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal committed by military police personnel of the United States Army. Organizations such as Amnesty International and the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims monitor abuses of human rights and reports widespread violations of human torture in by states in many regions of the world. Amnesty International estimates that at least 81 world governments currently practice torture, some of them openly.
Capital punishment is the sentence of death upon a person by the state as a punishment for an offense. This does not include extrajudicial killing, which is the killing of a person by governmental authorities without the sanction of any judicial proceeding or legal process. The use of capital punishment by country varies, but according to Amnesty International 58 countries still actively use the death penalty, and in 2010, 23 countries carried out executions and 67 imposed death sentences. Methods of execution in 2010 included beheading, electrocution, hanging, lethal injection and shooting. In 2007 the United Nations General Assembly passed the UN moratorium on the death penalty which called for worldwide abolition of the death penalty.
Notes and references
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