Violence in Blue | Patrick Ball | Granta Magazine

Violence in Blue | Patrick Ball | Granta Magazine – For the past twenty-five years, my colleagues and I have documented mass killings by state agents in over thirty countries around the world. From El Salvador to South Africa, from Kosovo to East Timor, from Colombia to Congo, we have built databases and conducted statistical analyses of patterns of violence by governments on behalf of tribunals, truth commissions, UN human rights missions and for local human rights activists. One of the only constants across all these examples is that the data we are able to collect is always partial.[4] It is difficult to collect information about violence committed by governments. Victims are afraid of retaliation and so they explain the deaths in other ways. The families of victims rightly recognize that to accuse a police or military officer of murder puts themselves and their family members directly in the path of well-resourced and sometimes violent adversaries who may be above the law. Furthermore, state agents who commit mass violence make every effort to disguise their actions. They influence coroners to describe the killings as accidents. They create narratives that distort responsibility so that it seems as though the victim is at fault for his or her own death. In their own narratives, police and military officials are keeping the peace and protecting innocents from the violent, the rebellious and the criminal. And in many cases, these narratives are correct. After all, the reason we consent to the existence of armed forces in our midst is precisely to keep us safe from these threats.

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