Skip to main content

Countdown to Human Rights Day

The Little Prince helps celebrate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Learn more

Press releases Special Procedures


26 March 1998

26 March 1998

The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Bacre Waly Ndiaye, concludes in his sixth annual report to the Commission on Human Rights that there is no indication that violations of the right to life have decreased. The figures in his report (document E/CN.4/1998/68), which has just been published, give an impression as to the magnitude of the occurrence of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions worldwide.

The Special Rapporteur, who was appointed by the Commission on Human Rights in 1992, considers that the emphasis must be on prevention of violations of the right to life. The international community should concentrate its efforts on effectively preventing further human right crises, including genocide. Up to 90 per cent of the victims of internal armed conflict being civilians, among whom many women and children, the international community should assist in the establishment of a coherent multifaceted system to prevent conflicts, including a rapid intervention component. He also thinks that a monitoring mechanism to supervise the implementation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide should be established.

Governments need to translate declarations of commitment into practice and should adopt the necessary preventive and protective measures to ensure full enjoyment of the right to life. If Governments feel themselves unable to fulfil this obligation, the Special Rapporteur proposes that measures to be taken could include requests for international assistance.

The Special Rapporteur also underscores the need to fight impunity, which he considers to be the principal cause of the perpetuation and encouragement of violations of the right to life. Governments should investigate all instances of alleged violations of the right to life, prosecute and punish accordingly the perpetrators and grant adequate compensation to the victims or their families. The Special Rapporteur welcomes the development and discussions on the draft code on crimes against the peace and security of mankind and the draft statute on the establishment of an international criminal court and calls on the General Assembly to adopt them as soon as possible.

During the past year, the Special Rapporteur transmitted 122 urgent appeals to some 44 Governments, as well as to the Palestinian Authority and the head of the Taliban Council, with the aim of preventing loss of life. Moreover, he requested Governments to investigate allegations regarding violations of the right to life of more than 960 individuals, to bring perpetrators to justice and to provide compensation to the members of their families.

The Special Rapporteur, is particularly concerned about the situation of the right to life in Algeria, Angola, Burundi, China, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Pakistan, Rwanda, Sri Lanka and Turkey where violations of the right to life are reportedly committed on a large scale. The Special Rapporteur notes that exceptional circumstances such as internal political instability or any other public emergency may not be invoked to justify any derogation from the right to life.

Prevalent targets of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions have continued to be human rights activists including community and peasant leaders, struggling to secure rights to land, to prevent or combat racial, ethnic or religious discrimination and ensure respect for social, cultural, economic, civil and political rights. Humanitarian workers have also been targeted. Women, children and the elderly, as well as refugees and internally displaced persons have not been spared.

The Special Rapporteur continued monitoring the implementation of existing international standards on safeguards and restrictions relating to the imposition of capital punishment. He has continued to take action in cases of capital punishment in which international restrictions or safeguards were said not to be respected. In such cases, he considers that the carrying out of a death sentence may constitute a form of summary or arbitrary execution. The Special Rapporteur recommends States to provide in their legislation a period of at least six ution. The Special Rapporteur recommends States to provide in their legislation a period of at least six months so as to allow a reasonable amount of time for the preparation of appeals to courts of higher jurisdiction and petitions for clemency before a death sentence is executed. Because the loss of life is irreversible and judicial error irreparable, the Special Rapporteur also urges Governments of countries in which the death penalty is still enforced to deploy every effort that could lead to its abolition, the desirability of which has repeatedly been affirmed by the General Assembly.

The Special Rapporteur carried out a mission to the United States in particular to look into death penalty issues. During the past year, he also conducted a visit to Sri Lanka. The findings, conclusions and recommendations of both missions will be published in addenda II and III to the present report. Addendum I to the present report, which is expected to come out shortly, contains all country situations including those in which the Special Rapporteur has taken action between 1 November 1996 and 31 October 1997.