Authoritarian regimes use both “carrots” and “sticks” in order to control their citizens. The “sticks” approach encompasses everything from surveillance to outright physical brutality. While the use of physical terror to undermine the bodily integrity of their citizens by authoritarian regimes is fairly well known, it is also evident that democracies are not immune to using this form of control over their populations. Almost by definition, authoritarian regimes terror-prone, but how much more so than democracies. You can fine the answers to this at the Political Terror Scale website, where they have a set of interesting interactive maps.
How is “political terror” defined? Well, they have created a scale (from 1-5) which is an indicator of the level of political terror citizens in a country face in any given year. The definitions for each of the categories is below.
El Salvador during the 1980s was ruled by a military regime, which used to death squads to “disappear” its internal opponents. U2 took note:
Political Terror Scale Levels
Level 5 : Terror has expanded to the whole population. The leaders of these societies place no limits on the means or thoroughness with which they pursue personal or ideological goals.
Level 4 : Civil and political rights violations have expanded to large numbers of the population. Murders, disappearances, and torture are a common part of life. In spite of its generality, on this level terror affects those who interest themselves in politics or ideas.
Level 3 : There is extensive political imprisonment, or a recent history of such imprisonment. Execution or other political murders and brutality may be common. Unlimited detention, with or without a trial, for political views is accepted.
Level 2 : There is a limited amount of imprisonment for nonviolent political activity. However, few persons are affected, torture and beatings are exceptional. Political murder is rare.
Level 1 : Countries under a secure rule of law, people are not imprisoned for their view, and torture is rare or exceptional. Political murders are extremely rare.