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Centre of Governance & Human Rights (CGHR)


Since 2011 CGHR has been collaborating with Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, on subjects related to the right to life.  In 2013 the Special Rapporteur initiated a study into levels and contexts of unlawful killings in Africa.  The purpose of this study will be to guide his future activity, both in terms of thematic reporting, country-visits, and the search for actionable entry-points.

Anecdotal and rudimentary statistical evidence suggest that the right to life is severely threatened on the African continent by "unlawful killings".  However very little systematic information is available to support this, or to establish the precise nature of the problem.  Interventions to curb the loss of life are often ad hoc and unfocussed and those with the potential or mandate to make a difference do not have a clear picture of what priorities should be.  Moreover, it appears that the right to life—the supreme human right—does not attract the attention that it deserves on the African continent. This is clearly an area where academic research is needed to inform practical action.

The aim of the study is to develop a conceptual framework and understanding of the phenomenon of unlawful killings in Africa, and on the basis of this theoretical foundation to develop a holistic plan for the UN mandate, keeping in mind its capabilities and working methods, as well as its interaction with other role players who have an impact or potential impact on securing the right to life on the continent.


The CGHR study into Unlawful Killings in Africa

Unlawful Killings Cover   ed



A report prepared by the CGHR research team for the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

Download PDF here.

An executive summary of the report is also available to download here.


The CGHR Research Team

CGHR convened an interdisciplinary team of researchers from across the University--comprising both undergraduate and graduate students--that conducted a broad review of the extent of unlawful killing in Africa.  The objective was to produce a report for the Special Rapporteur to guide his work on the continent and to bring together research on this category of human rights violations in a more systematic way.  The Research Team comprised:

Katherine Bruce-Lockhart (History)   Dwayne Menezes  (History)
Lou Cantwell (History) Eva Namusoke (History)
Mary Goodhart (POLIS) Sophie Roborgh (POLIS)
Charlotte Kelly (Law) Justin Selner (POLIS)
Meenakshi Krishnan (POLIS) Sam Sherman (POLIS)
Sean McCormick (POLIS) Alexia Solomou (Lauterpacht Centre)



Coming in 2015

The Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CRASSH), the Centre of African Studies, and the Division of Social Anthropology, along with CGHR, are holding a conference in Cambridge in March 2015 on "Pursuing Justice in Africa".  It will focus on the varied actors pursuing visions of justice in Africa – their aspirations, divergent practices and articulations of international and vernacular idioms of justice.

For more information see the conference listing here.


Dr Sharath Srinivasan, Dr Thomas Probert and the UN Special Rapporteur, Prof. Christof Heyns