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
II. Identifying a Potential Violation: section links...
1. Introduction - 2. Legal Context - 3. The Right to Life - 4. Patterns of Violation - 5. Is There a Violation? - Summary of Part II

PART II - IDENTIFYING A POTENTIAL VIOLATION

5. IS THERE A VIOLATION?

Like all human rights, the right to life appears very complex when examined in detail. From the perspective of a person examining a set of facts to see if they might represent evidence of a violation of the right to life, the most important thing to remember is that they must point to the responsibility of the state for the killing. The state can be held responsible for four main types of violation of the right to life:

If, upon initial consideration, the facts appear to fall under one or more of these categories of violation, a more detailed analysis can be carried out to see how best to present the allegation and construct the argument. The more facts you can provide, the better. You do not have to be certain that a violation has occurred in order to submit an allegation, but you do need to make sure that the subject-matter of your allegation appears to fall under at least one of the main types of violation of the right to life. Work your way systematically through the categories - Does the killing appear to have occurred at the hands or with the approval of a state official? Is there anything the state might have done to prevent the killing from occurring or to reduce the likelihood of it occurring? Did the state investigate the death effectively? Did the state provide an effective remedy for the death? Do not focus on one to the exclusion of the others, as there will often be more than one violation. Your task is to identify a potential (not certain) violation of the right to life and to document the facts as clearly and fully as possible. It is then up to the international human rights bodies to determine what exactly amounts to a violation and what does not.

Remember that, although not legally-binding in themselves, relevant detailed codes and principles (in particular the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, and the Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary, and Summary Executions) can give you guidance on what might amount to a violation of the right to life, and help you to support an argument that the state has violated that general obligation.

Be aware, also, that the same facts may reveal additional related violations of other human rights. Some rights you might want to bear in mind include:

The right to liberty and security of person, e.g. a killing that may have taken place during arbitrary or unlawful detention or an enforced disappearance.
The right to freedom from torture, e.g. a killing that may have resulted from the infliction of torture or inhuman and degrading treatment.
The right to humane conditions of detention, e.g. a death that has resulted from lack of food or water whilst in detention.
The right to be free from discrimination, e.g. a killing which was motivated by the victim's membership of a particular ethnic group.
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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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