Democratic impunity : the case of the Iraq war detention regime

Finn, Peter (2019) Democratic impunity : the case of the Iraq war detention regime. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


In positive portrayals of liberal democracy, the rule of law, which should see those caught violating the law subject to processes that may ultimately lead to sanction, is portrayed as a pillar of democratic societies. Moreover, the oversite of government actions, whether by sections of the state or outside bodies, is depicted as key to ensuring democratic states abide by the law and incidental violations are punished. Drawing their cue from a broader body of literature that trumpets the importance of transparency, openness and accountability (and the oversite they are said to engender) to the organisation and operation of democratic states, these portrayals can collectively be understood as reflecting a line of thought that can be labelled the democratic oversight narrative. Yet, presenting a problem for such positive portrayals is the reality that there is a history within the military and intelligence operations of the US and the UK of failures to punish those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law. Impunity, understood most simplistically as a lack of punishment for those responsible and/or a lack of recompense for victims, has accompanied such illegality on some occasions. Though such impunity has sometimes been highlighted, there is a dearth of literature devoted to theorising impunity within the context of US and UK national security operations. This thesis rectifies this by introducing an original theoretical taxonomy under the label democratic impunity. This taxonomy is then applied to impunity connected to some instances of detainee abuse that transpired within the Iraq War detention operations of both states, which, via system theory, are collectively codified as the Iraq War detention regime. Empirically, the novelty of this thesis stems from this codification, as well as the documentation of the largest number of detainee deaths (230) within the regime currently in the public domain and the presence of the largest data set of evidence pertaining to detainee abuse within the regime.

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