skip to content

Centre of Governance & Human Rights (CGHR)


2nd December 2013

CGHR Research Group paper

When the state kills, the boundaries of state responsibilities and the right to life.

Dr Thomas J.W. Probert (CGHR)Thomas Probert   New picture

This paper will address some of the definitional issues encountered when trying to conduct an empirical survey of the extent of unlawful killings around the world, designed with a specific reference to the mandate and continuing work of the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. It will discuss the international human rights framework with respect to the right to life and the limited circumstances in which it remains possible for the state directly to take life before moving on to describe the positive obligations which the framework imposes. Taken together this will help to establish a working definition of an “unlawful killing”. Finally the paper will consider how other causes of death might interact with state responsibilities and the right to life.

This paper will provide a background to CGHR ’s research collaboration on ‘Unlawful Killing in Africa’, the next part of the Centre’s research support to the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, Christof Heyns.

The discussant will be Dr Sarah Nouwen (Lauterpacht Centre)

This paper is part of the CGHR Research Group, a forum for graduate students and early-career researchers from any department and disciplinary background researching issues of governance and human rights in the global, regional, and national contexts.