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  • More Murder in the Middle: Life-Integrity Violations and Democracy in the World, 1987
  • Helen Fein* (bio)

I. Introduction

Current US foreign policy goals put great stress on extending democracy, and US legislation—never systematically enforced—has banned aid to gross violators of human rights for two decades, making exceptions for aid which benefits needy people.

Gross violations of human rights which are criminalized in international law include genocide, extrajudicial executions, and torture. These violations are labeled herein as violations of life-integrity.

Based on a coded content analysis of Amnesty International Reports for 1987 and Freedom House rankings, this article will examine the relationship between life-integrity violations and freedom in 145 states during 1987 and will probe two alternate hypotheses. Our findings support the second, which asserts that there will be more conflict mobilized and incentives for repression—i.e., worse violations of life integrity—as democracy is extended before it is fully institutionalized (More Murder in the Middle). This article further examines the effects of ethnic discrimination, war, development, and inequality (and the linkages among them) on life-integrity violations, and considers the implications for research and policy.

Since the end of the Cold War, democracy has gained new ground in many states and has become a renewed object of US foreign policy in the Clinton Administration. The sterile and ideological debate over the precedence, linkage, or priority of social and economic rights versus political and [End Page 170] civil rights in less developed or poorer states has been almost forgotten as people in those states protest and rebel against their authoritarian governments. One premise of the ideological assertion that political and civil rights must be subordinated for the sake of development was that despotism led to economic growth. The assumption that authoritarianism was more likely than democracy to produce growth has been disconfirmed by Kurzman, reviewing three decades of data: 1952–1982. 1

Several questions can be posed about these developments. Do democracy and democratization protect the most basic of human rights? What are the most basic rights? Why should we expect that it does? If it does not, how can this be explained?

I begin with the assumption 2 that the right to exist and to be free from bodily invasion and terror of being caught, held, and disappeared is a basic desideratum among humans which transcends culture and ages. Sociologically, rights are claims successfully wrested from governments and other power holders. I label certain acts as violations of life-integrity because the violations negate an integrated set of claims respecting the biological and social integration of persons and groups: A) the integrity of mind and body (denied by genocide, murder, torture, and terror); B) of being the owner of one’s labor and being able to move (denied by slavery, segregation, and apartheid); C) the integration of self and family which creates progeny (denied by prohibiting marriage and family development); and D) of the reciprocal guarantees for the protection of human groups (denied by genocide).

These rights, and their violations (see Figure 1) are defined in international law and in four of six cases criminalized by special conventions. For two decades, US domestic laws regulating foreign aid have recognized these rights under “respect for the integrity of the person” in the annual State Department report on countries’ human rights practices. 3

Figure 1.

Life Integrity and Their Violations

Rights Violations International Law
  Against Violation/
    Date in Force
1. The right to life Genocide;* Mass killing; UN Genocide Conv. 1951
Summary/extra-judicial UDHR 3#
executions; ICPR 6##
2. The right to Torture, rape, and UN Conv. Against Torture
personal sexual abuse; inhuman 1987
inviolability/ and degrading treatment UDHR 5
not to be hurt and punishment ICPR 7
3. The right to be No due process or any UDHR 3
free of fear of process; arbitrary ICPR 9
arbitrary detention; lack of fair
seizure, trial
detention, and
4. Freedom to own Slavery, forced labor, Slavery Conv. 1927
one’s body and debt slavery, and Suppl. Conv. 1957
labor    equivalent instututions Conv. Concerning Aboli-
    tion of Forced Labour
5. The right to free Group macro-segregation Conv. on the Suppression
movement without (Apartheid...