7.2.4 Violent Abuse of State Power

All States use force to enforce the law, but some use disproportionate force against their own population – sometimes citing the need to protect society against a the threat of a complete collapse of law and order (7.2.6).  And several forms of State violence are forbidden by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Appendix 1).  State abuses of force are not uncommon:

Many authoritarian governments maintain control over the population by using brutal force against dissenters, to enforce conformity and instil a fear of stepping out of line.  This has been observed in both Russia ( and China (

If the population distrusts the result of an election, and cannot replace an unsatisfactory leader by democratic means, there is the potential for protests – sometimes leading to violent crackdowns such as those described in BBC reports on What’s happening in Belarus? and in Myanmar: What has been happening since the 2021 coup?

As it is outside the framework of governance, State abuse of force is classified here as a form of Ungoverned Power.

The following sub-sections examine the use of torture (, the use of disproportionate military force (, and public reactions to a State’s violent abuse of its power (



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This is a current page, updated since publication of Patterns of Power Edition 3a.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/724a.htm