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Unlawful Killings in Africa: Launch of a CGHR Study for the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions

19th June 2014

Unlawful Killings in Africa: Launch of a CGHR Study for the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions

Professor Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur
Professor Christopher Clapham (Centre of African Studies, University of Cambridge) 

On 19th June 2014, CGHR published and launched the outcome of its most recent collaboration with the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, a study of the incidence of violations of the right to life across the African continent.  This study, Unlawful Killings in Africa is the product of a year-long collaboration between CGHR Research Associate Dr Thomas Probert and the Special Rapporteur, focused on the creation and coordination of a Research Team during Michaelmas and Lent terms of this year.

The 270-page study is based on a research framework that categorises the various elements of the UN mandate, breaking down the concept of an unlawful killing into analytic sections.  It included sections on excessive use of force by state actors (including during demonstrations), targeted political killings, election-related violence, custodial deaths, and the death penalty, as well as several sections on killings by various types of non-state actors, and a section on unlawful killings in the context of armed conflict and ungoverned spaces.

During the launch, the Special Rapporteur, Prof. Christof Heyns, paid tribute to the richness of the empirical research that had been conducted by the CGHR team and to the systematic approach of its framework for thinking about his mandate.  He particularly drew attention to the dual analysis, explained in the Introduction, of "(state) control" and "incidence".  This, he suggested, was a very helpful means of determining the extent to which a particular type of killing in a particular context might be relevant to his mandate.

The Special Rapporteur emphasised how useful the study would be not only to him and to UN colleagues, but also the extent to which it could help analogous regional mechanisms, for example within the African Commission on Human and People's Rights.

Offering a brief comment on the project as a whole, Prof. Christopher Clapham (Centre of African Studies, University of Cambridge) pointed to the context of a global decline in violent deaths, but emphasised the various tensions that remained, particularly in Africa, in the relationship between the state and its citizen.

A .pdf version of the study and an Executive Summary are available here.

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