Offshore Processing Torture: State Crime, Resistance and International Criminal Law

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Copyright: Hodgson, Natalie
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Abstract
This thesis explores the potential of international criminal law to resist state crime. Existing research recognises that law can provide civil society with methods and forums for challenging state power. This thesis aims to develop a greater understanding of the prospects and limitations of using law to resist state crime with a focus on international criminal law and the International Criminal Court (ICC). This thesis explores this topic through a case study of Australia’s offshore detention of asylum seekers. This thesis addresses four Research Questions: 1. How can offshore detention be characterised as state crime? 2. What aspects of offshore detention are formally criminalised under international criminal law? 3. To what extent can civil society access the ICC to resist offshore detention? 4. How can a criminological approach inform our understanding of the potential of international criminal law to resist state crime? To answer these questions, this thesis draws on criminological and legal methods. This thesis argues that offshore detention was a state policy of ‘degradation by design’; that is, offshore detention was a hostile environment designed to compel asylum seekers to ‘voluntarily’ return to their countries of origin. Using this criminological understanding of offshore detention, this thesis argues that aspects of Australia’s offshore detention policy are formally criminalised under international criminal law, constituting crimes against humanity. Thus, this thesis demonstrates how criminological knowledge can inform the interpretation of international criminal law in relation to state crime. This thesis recognises that there are difficulties in civil society accessing the ICC as a forum where state crimes might be prosecuted. Nonetheless, this thesis argues that international criminal law’s potential to resist state crime extends beyond prosecutions. International criminal law provides civil society with a normative language and communicative space for resisting state crime. By mobilising the stigma of international criminal law, civil society can send messages to local, national and international communities, expressing the illegitimacy of state conduct. Therefore, by combining knowledge from the fields of state crime and international criminal law, this thesis contributes to expanding existing knowledge of how law can be used by civil society to resist state crime.
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Publication Year
2021
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Thesis
Degree Type
PhD Doctorate
UNSW Faculty