In view of the increasing instances of alleged summary executions, a Special Rapporteur has been appointed by the Commission on Human Rights to look at the occurrence and extent of the practice of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

The mandate of the Special Rapporteur covers all violations to the right to life, as guaranteed by international human rights instruments, and all countries, irrespective of whether a State has ratified relevant international Conventions.

In accordance with article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 2 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and pursuant to several other United Nations declarations and conventions, everyone is entitled to the protection of the right to life without distinction or discrimination of any kind, and all persons shall be guaranteed equal and effective access to remedies for the violation of this right.

The situations of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions that the Special Rapporteur is requested to investigate comprise a variety of cases. All acts and omissions of state representatives that constitute a violation of the general recognition of the right to life embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights  and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as a number of other treaties, resolutions, conventions and declarations adopted by competent United Nations bodies, fall within his mandate.

The mandate of the Special Rapporteur comprises 3 activities:

a) Transmitting urgent appeals and letters of allegations to States; the urgent appeals aim at preventing the loss of life by transmitting to the State concerned cases that evince a fear of imminent extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution to States; these cases include death threats and fear of imminent execution of death sentences in contravention of the limitations on capital punishment set forth in the pertinent international instruments. This fear is sometimes based on alleged violations of the right to life that have already been committed. The Special Rapporteur may also send urgent appeals to Governments after having been informed of the imminent expulsion of persons to a country where they are at risk of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution.

When transmitting urgent actions, the Special Rapporteur appeals to the Governments concerned to ensure effective protection of those under threat or at risk of execution. He also urges the competent authorities to undertake full, independent and impartial investigations with respect to those violations and to adopt all necessary measures to prevent further violations of the right to life. The Special Rapporteur requests that he be informed of every step taken in this regard.

The letters of allegation concern alleged cases of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution, which are transmitted to concerned Governments in the form of case summaries. The Special Rapporteur requests the Governments to provide information regarding the progress and results of investigations conducted with respect to these cases, penal or disciplinary sanctions imposed on the perpetrators, compensation provided to the family of the victim, as well as with any other pertinent comments or observations. The Governments are also urged to take all the necessary steps to investigate, prosecute, impose appropriate sanctions and provide compensation in accordance with international standards, as well as to take measures to prevent the recurrence of such acts. Other allegations of a more general nature are also transmitted to concerned Governments with requests to clarify the substance of these allegations and/or to provide the Special Rapporteur with more specific information, such as legal texts and other relevant documents. These general allegations include, for example, reports about persistent impunity or legislation alleged to be in contravention of restrictions on the application of capital punishment contained in pertinent international instruments.

The activities of the Special Rapporteur are based on credible and reliable information brought to his attention by non-governmental organizations, Governments, individuals and intergovernmental organizations. These communications contain specific cases of alleged extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, or death threats, and/or general information about questions related to the right to life.

b)Undertaking country visits that aim at obtaining first-hand information on the situation of the right to life in the countries visited, reporting on his findings and to proposing, in a spirit of cooperation and assistance, recommendations to improve situations identified as matters of concern. The visits of the Special Rapporteur are expressions of concern and aim at improving his understanding of a particular situation to enable him to formulate useful recommendations. Also, visits do not have the character of a judicial inquiry; they cannot replace investigations by competent judicial authorities.

c)Submitting annual reports on activities the mandate and methods of work to the Commission on Human Rights and the General Assembly. These reports contain a description of his/her activities and working methods, summaries of communications between the Special Rapporteur and Governments and, if appropriate, observations on the situation of the right to life in specific countries. A general analysis of the phenomenon of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions is included in the report, as well as conclusions and recommendations in this respect.

The Commission on Human Rights publicly discussed the reports during its annual session; representatives of both Governments and non-governmental organizations can participate in the discussion. Reports on country visits are also presented during the annual session of the Commission.

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