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State Terrorism and Human Rights: International responses since the end of the Cold War (Gillian Duncan, Orla Lynch, Gilbert Ramsay and Alison M. S. Watson, eds.)

Edited by Gillian Duncan, Orla Lynch, Gilbert Ramsay and Alison M. S. Watson
Routledge, London, (2013)
ISBN 978-0-415-62907-2

Gillian Duncan is CSTPV Secretary of the School of International Relations at the University of St. Andrews. Gilbert Ramsay recently completed his doctorate at the University of St. Andrews. Alison Watson is Professor of International Relations at the University of St. Andrews.

Orla Lynch is Director of Teaching and Lecturer in Terrorism Studies at the CSTPV at the University of St. Andrews. Her background is in International Security Studies and Applied Psychology and her current research examines the impact of counterterrorism measures on UK and Ireland’s Muslim communities. Lynch is currently one of the principle investigators on an EU-funded project looking at the experience of victimisation through terrorism across Europe. Orla Lynch’s publications include: ‘Contending with Terrorism: A Review’, Defence and Security Analysis (March 2011); ‘Counter Terrorism Policy in the UK’, in F. Shanty (ed.), Counterterrorism: From the Cold War to the War on Terrorism, ABC-CLIO. Orla Lynch was a presenter at the OUPS conference this year and presented a talk with the title ‘Political Victims – The Experience of Victims of Terrorism’ and one that unfortunately I had to miss due to OUPS backstage commitments. Orla’s conference presentation (with copresenter Dr. Carmel Joyce, University of St. Andrews) resulted from an international needs based analysis of victims of sub-state terrorism and examined whether the experience of the victims differed substantially from accounts of individuals who experienced similar acts (murder, serious physical injury) without the political context of terrorism.

State Terrorism and Human Rights is one in a series of Routledge books on political violence which catalogues terror and violence through comparative and historical analysis. With the end of the Cold War and the end of communism in Eastern Europe it was thought that with the demise of communism and move towards the Western type democracy, freedom and human rights things would improve but it did not end state terror. The book along with the editors has eleven other contributors including Javier Argomaniz who is joint editor with Orla Lynch on a forthcoming book in the New Year ‘Victims of Terrorism: A Comparative and Interdisciplinary Study’ also to be published by Routledge.

In State Terrorism and Human Rights the introductory observations are that terror has not been exclusive to communist one -party states but extends to numerous military regimes and other forms of dictatorship which use torture as a means of state terror. It is noted that in 1995, in 151 out of 185 member states of the UN, torture and other forms of merciless, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment occurred.

There are chapters and studies on particular conflicts and state terrorism since the end of the Cold War. Libya, Syria, Bahrain, Iraq, East Timor (Indonesia) and Rwanda are all subjects of investigation. Human rights and the rise of technology as an awareness tool in state terror abuses is another aspect that is scrutinised, including states’ employment of propaganda and the rise and use of the internet. The obstacles to international action against state terror are likewise visited along with humanitarian intervention and Responsibility to Protect (R2P) generated from a meeting of experts in 2001.

Conor Gearaty, who has been a professor of Human Rights Law at LSE since 2009, penned the concluding chapter ‘Towards a More Effective International Response to State Terror, Based on Democratic Principles and the Protection of Human Rights’. Unlike Paul Rogers who sees changing the world order as the way forward, Gearaty suggests a number of principles within existing legal structures to protect human rights. Gearaty argues that human rights law needs more effective implementation and it has to be protected from internal and external threats. He advocates a return to a criminal law model of enforcement of international anti-terrorism law which includes both principles of legality and the respect for human rights.

In part the book is also a tribute and dedicated to Professor Paul Wilkinson as this was to be his final volume in terrorism. It has been completed by his colleagues (the editors) at the University of St. Andrews with support from CSTPV. Lynch and Gilbert Ramsey in concluding observe Professor Wilkinson’s adherence to the belief that terrorism was fundamentally a psychological concept, a moral matter and that violence in the form of terrorism was repugnant. Human rights in state terrorism are often overlooked. The stated aim of this book is to improve understanding of the broad trends when political violence is employed by investigating the use of state terror in world politics. This is a very useful publication for anyone interested in the areas of Human Rights, terrorism and security studies.

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