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Torture, impunity, and open legal spaces: Abu Ghraib and international controls

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Transnational and non-conventional forms of crime, particularly state crimes, are increasingly becoming the focus of criminological work. Within this body of research, however, relatively little attention has been paid to the critical issue of international controls (see Rothe & Mullins, 2006). We believe that it is important to explore the ability of intergovernmental bodies such as the United Nations, International Court of Justice, and the International Criminal Court, to exert some measure of social control on state crimes. Our intent is to explore this issue by examining the cases of abuse and torture that occurred at Abu Ghraib prison during the American occupation of Iraq. Specifically, we examine the extant controls at the international level and their subsequent failure as such. We begin with a brief review of Abu Ghraib and the subsequent cases of abuse and torture followed by descriptive accounts of international institutions of social control as they pertain to Abu Ghraib. In conclusion, we explore why these institutions failed to control the acts that occurred and we offer several policy suggestions that could act to strengthen the existing controls.
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Keywords: Abu Ghraib; International Court of Justice; International Criminal Court; international criminal law; international military tribunals; torture

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA, USA 2: Western Michigan University, USA 3: Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, USA

Publication date: 2009-03-01

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