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Political Terror Scale

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Political Terror Scale

Summary: The Political Terror Scale (PTS) measures levels of political violence and terror that a country experiences in a particular year based on a 5-level “terror scale” originally developed by Freedom House.

Main Points: The data used in compiling the PTS index comes from two different sources: the yearly country reports of Amnesty International and the U.S. State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

·        In determining the levels coders are provided with the following instructions:

·        Ignore Own Biases. Coders should make every attempt to keep their own biases out of their work. Thus, coders are instructed to ignore their perceptions of a country, and to limit their coding to the information provided in the country report.

·        Give Countries the Benefit of the Doubt. Coders also are instructed to give the benefit of the doubt in favor of the countries they are coding. Thus, if a coder thinks that a country could be scored as either a level 2 or a level 3, the country is to receive the lower score. Sometimes coders will not feel comfortable making a choice between two levels. In those instances, coders will oftentimes score a country using both numbers, such as 2/3. If the coder has either of these numbers, we use the level where there is agreement.

·        Read What the Report is Saying. Finally, coders are instructed to read what the report is trying to say. One of the keys is to look at the adjectives used in these reports. For example, “reports” of torture is different in kind (and less serious) than “widespread” torture, which also is different (and less serious) than “systematic” torture.

One of the more difficult problems is how to deal with the situation where a country's human rights situation changes dramatically during the course of the year. It is not out of the ordinary for a nearly installed regime to pursue policies that are diametrically opposed to that which preceded it. In these instances, we instruct the coders to consider when the regime change occurred. For example, if a repressive regime was ousted late in the calendar year, the score probably should reflect the human rights situation that existed for most of the year. On the other hand, if the change occurred anywhere near the middle of the year or before then, the score should reflect this change.

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 views, and torture is rare or exceptional. Political murders are extremely rare.

Access to database:

Source: Reed M. Wood, Mark Gibney, The Political Terror Scale (PTS): A Re-introduction and a Comparison to CIRI, Human Rights Quarterly, Volume 32, Number 2, May 2010, pp. 367-400

Page Created By:  Madina Junussova. The content presented on this page is drawn directly from the source(s) cited above, and consists of direct quotations or close paraphrases. This material does not necessarily reflect the official view of the publishing organization.

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School of Public Policy and Governance