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Hero executions ©Raffy Lerma

Extrajudicial killings

Extrajudicial killings, or extrajudicial executions, happen when someone in an official position deliberately kills a person without any legal process. Such arbitrary deprivations of life, which can also be carried out by militias, death squads or other non-State actors, often target political opponents, activists, or marginalized groups.

Deaths resulting from torture or other ill-treatment in detention may also fall into this category, as do so-called “honour killings” among others, if the State fails to address systematic patterns of violence.

States have a legal obligation to protect the right to life. Such crimes must be investigated and their authors, prosecuted. In practice though, they frequently go unpunished.

The OMCT and the members of its SOS-Torture Network keep documenting these killings, including in countries where they are part of a well-established pattern. One case in point is the Philippines, where large-scale killings in the framework of the so-called “war on drugs” have not even spared children. In Bangladesh, there were 845 documented cases of extrajudicial killings between 2013 and 2017, with not a single one of them having been duly investigated. As is the case with torture and other serious crimes carried out by State officials or with their tacit approval, impunity is a major factor for such killings to continue. Together with our SOS-Torture Network, we have also documented numerous cases in Latin America, including in Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Other countries known for this practice include Congo, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria and Syria, among others.

There is a frequent overlap between torture and extrajudicial killings, for example when torture results in death. The experts on the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) regularly refer to extrajudicial killings in their concluding observations after examining how a country complies with its obligation to respect the Convention against Torture. In recent years, this has been the case for Burundi, Ukraine, Israel/OPT, Iraq, Yemen, and China, among others – including when the CAT focused on deaths in custody as a result of torture. The CAT also includes acts perpetrated by non-State actors when examining extrajudicial killings as violations of the Convention.

Extrajudicial Killings Covered faces Philippines
©Raffy Lerma
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