State Crime

State crime refers to actions which a sovereign state commits or omits that are in violation of its own standards of criminal law. State crime often corresponds with white-collar crime and state-corporate crime. This is a relatively new concept, since the state hes traditionally the author, guardian and executor of criminal law within its own borders, but with the rise of international organizations in the twentieth century and the idea of government accountability, the concept is coming to be held more and more seriously.

In international criminal courts, state-sponsored activities such as torture, war crimes, terrorism and genocide may be judged illegal and criminal by international organizations. However, it is difficult to convict a state of crime, let alone enforce any meaningful punishment, if the offending state has not submitted itself to the jurisdiction of international law. The only alternative is military intervention, which carries a whole universe of financial, political and ethical problems with it.

State crime can be somewhat more difficult to define domestically than internationally, since it is traditionally the state that defines what is criminal within its own borders. However, one means of determining whether a state's activity is criminal is to compare against the behaviors and operating standards by which the state attempts to fulfill its normal civic goals. If it is illegal for an individual to torture his enemies, then it is presumably illegal for the state to torture its enemies. In first world democratic nations like the United States, the state is frequently implicated in crimes concerning the obstruction of justice, disinformation, cover-ups, unaccountability and fraud. These crimes are often revealed by investigative news agencies but, even once revealed, it is difficult to maintain independent control of criminal procedure and individuals responsible for state crimes are rarely held personally accountable.