Reporting Killings as Human Rights Violations Handbook

Reporting Killings as Human Rights Violations Handbook

How to document and respond to potential violations of the right to life within the international system for the protection of human rights

By Kate Thompson and Camille Giffard

Handbook links: website home page
Table of Contents - Search - Part I: Essential Reading - Part II: Identifying a Potential Violation - Part III: How to Document Allegations of Unlawful Killings - Part IV: Responding to the Information Collected - Part V: Where can you Seek Further Help? - Appendices

GLOSSARY OF SPECIALISED TERMS

Admissibility

The stage of an individual complaint procedure at which the judicial or quasi-judicial body decides if the right conditions are present for it to be able to examine a complaint. If a complaint is inadmissible, it cannot be examined any further.

Allegation

A claim (as yet neither proved nor disproved) that an incident has occurred.

Amicus curiae brief

A submission by a non-party to judicial proceedings which is designed to inform the judicial body about a specific matter relating to the proceedings.

Applicant

Person making an application under an individual complaint procedure.

Application

Letter or other form of submission asking a judicial body to consider a case under an individual complaint procedure.

Article

The term used to refer to individual sections of a treaty.

Asylum

Asylum is sought by individuals who do not wish to return to a country, usually their own, where they are at risk. If granted, it means being allowed to remain in a country which is not their own. It may be temporary or permanent.

Breach (of obligations)

See VIOLATION

Charter

See TREATY

Communication

Letter or other form of submission transmitting information to an international body. The term is often used within the UN to refer to applications under an individual complaint procedure. The person who writes a communication is often referred to as the author of the communication.

Competence

See JURISDICTION (of a judicial body)

Complainant

Person making a complaint under an individual complaint procedure.

Consultative status

NGOs can apply to the UN for consultative status - this means that they are officially registered as an organisation which the UN can consult. NGOs with consultative status have certain privileges over other NGOs, such as being allowed to attend sessions of the UN Commission on Human Rights.

Convention

See TREATY

Corroboration

Evidence which supports or confirms the truth of an allegation.

Court judgment

Legally-binding decision in which a court expresses its conclusions in a case.

Covenant

See TREATY

Declaration

International law document which is not legally-binding, but sets out standards which states undertake to respect.

Deportation

Expulsion from a country.

Domestic law or legal system

National law or legal system; law or legal system which is specific to a particular country.

Enforcement (of obligations)

Making the obligations effective; ensuring that they are respected.

Entry into force (of a treaty)

The moment at which treaty obligations begin to apply.

Extra-judicial (e.g. execution)

Not imposed by a judge or following a legal process.

Fact-finding

Carrying out an investigation to discover the facts.

Gross violations of human rights

Particularly serious violations of human rights, such as torture or extra-judicial killing.

Human rights mechanism

A generic term for the variety of bodies such as committees, commissions, and special rapporteurs which have been established to consider human rights matters.

Implementation (of obligations)

The way in which obligations are carried out or respected, or measures aimed at achieving this.

Impunity

Being able to avoid punishment for illegal or undesirable behaviour.

Incommunicado detention

Being held by the authorities without being allowed any contact with the outside world, and/or without the detention being acknowledged.

Individual complaint

A complaint relating to a specific set of facts affecting an individual or individuals.

Instrument

A general term to refer to international law documents, whether legally binding or not.

Inter-governmental body

A body or organisation composed of the governmental representatives of more than one country.

Judicial procedure

A procedure before a judicial body.

Jurisdiction (of a state)

Area or persons over which a state exercises its authority.

Jurisdiction (of a judicial body)

Matters which fall within the jurisdiction of a judicial or quasi-judicial body are those which it is has the power to examine. This may also be referred to as being competent to examine a matter.

Leave (e.g. seeking leave to submit an amicus curiae brief)

Permission.

Legally-binding

If something is legally-binding on a state, this means that the state is obliged to act in accordance with it, and there may be legal consequences if it does not do so, e.g. the state can be brought before an international court and ordered to pay compensation to a victim.

Litigation

The process of bringing and conducting a case before a court.

Lodging a complaint

Registering a complaint.

Mandate

The source of the powers of a mechanism - the document which explains what the mechanism is authorised to do.

Merits

The stage of an individual complaint procedure at which the judicial body examines the facts of a case and decides if a violation has occurred.

Monitoring

Seeking and receiving information for the purpose of reporting on a subject or situation.

Non-governmental actors

Private persons acting independently of the authorities.

Observations

Comments, assessment.

Perpetrator

The person who has carried out an act.

Petition

Request for action, e.g. request for a matter to be investigated.

Provisional measures

Temporary measures which can be requested by a judicial or quasi-judicial body before having completed its consideration of a case, in order to avoid irreparable damage.

Quasi-judicial procedure

A procedure before a body which considers cases in a similar way to a judicial body, but which is not composed of judges and the decisions of which are not legally-binding.

Ratification

The process through which a state agrees to be bound by a treaty.

Recommendation

A suggested course of action. Recommendations are not legally-binding.

Reparation

Measures to repair damage caused.

Reservation

At the time of agreeing to be bound by a treaty, a state can register a reservation: a statement which modifies its obligations under the treaty in some way.

Resolution

Official decision of an international body, often adopted through a vote. It is usually a recommendation and therefore not legally binding.

Rules of procedure

The detailed rules which a judicial or quasi-judicial body adopts, setting out the way in which proceedings before it should be carried out.

Sanction

A penalty imposed for a state's failure to respect its legal obligations.

State responsibility

Holding a state accountable under international law.

State Party (to a treaty)

State which has agreed to be bound a treaty.

Submission

See COMMUNICATION/APPLICATION

Supervisory body

A body set up to supervise the ways in which states implement their obligations under a treaty.

Third party intervention

See AMICUS CURIAE BRIEF

Transmission (of an allegation)

Sending the allegation, e.g. to the state concerned.

Treaty

International law document which sets out legally-binding obligations for states.

Treaty body

A body such as a committee, set up by a treaty.

Violation (of obligations)

Failure by a state to respect its obligations under international law.

 

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Handbook links: website home page
Table of Contents - Search - Part I: Essential Reading - Part II: Identifying a Potential Violation - Part III: How to Document Allegations of Unlawful Killings - Part IV: Responding to the Information Collected - Part V: Where can you Seek Further Help? - Appendices
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