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Condemned by Law: Assassination of Political Dissidents Abroad

it would be “unconscionable” to interpret the ICCPR provisions to permit states to perpetrate violations of the Covenant on the territory of another member state, the Committee ruled that a member state can be liable for the offending actions of its agents on foreign soil.67 The International Court of Justice affirmed the Committee’s interpretation in a 2004 Advisory Opinion holding that the Covenant “is applicable in respect of acts done by a State in the exercise of its jurisdiction outside its own territory.”68

4.1.1. Duty to Protect Life

The bedrock principle of the Covenant is expressed in Article 6(1) of the document, which reads:

Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.69

According to the Committee, the U.N. treaty body charged with monitoring ICCPR compliance,70 the right to life is “the supreme right from which no derogation is permitted even in time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation.”71 The “inherent right to life” cannot be interpreted too narrowly, and member states must adopt positive measures aimed at “strictly control[ling] and limit[ing] the circumstances in which a person may be deprived of his life by such authorities.”72

Implicit in Article 6’s prohibition on extrajudicial killings is the duty of member states to take effective measures to prevent the deprivation of the right to life.73 This corollary duty is recognized by the Committee and various other international human rights courts, including the European Court of Human Rights.74 The duty to prevent the deprivation of the right to life may be characterized by the concept of “due diligence,” an evolving principle of state accountability related to a member state’s affirmative obligations to ensure protection of the right to life (and other fundamental rights guaranteed by the ICCPR).75 The Committee recognizes Article 6’s inherent duty to prevent requirements by noting that member states “should take measures not only to prevent and punish deprivation of life by criminal acts, but also to prevent arbitrary

[67] Lilian Celberti de Casariego v. Uruguay, Communication No. R.13/56, U.N. Doc. Supp. No. 40 (A/36/40) at 185 (1981).
[68] Advisory Opinion on Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory para. 111, 2004 I.C.J. 131; see also Civil and Political Rights, Including the Questions of Disappearances and Summary Executions (Report of the Special Rapporteur of Dec. 22, 2004) paras. 46-47, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/2005/7 (Dec. 22, 2004) [hereinafter Report of the Special Rapporteur of Dec. 22, 2004].
[69] ICCPR, supra note 10.
[70] See id. art. 28. Pursuant to the First Optional Protocol of the ICCPR, member states agree to submit disputes to the Committee. Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights art. 1, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), 999 U.N.T.S. 302, entered into force Mar. 23, 1976 [hereinafter First Optional Protocol]. Iran is not a signatory to the First Optional Protocol. See id.
[71] U.N. Human Rights Comm., General Comment 6, The Right to Life, U.N. Doc. HRI/GEN/1/Rev.1 at 6 (1994); see also U.N. Human Rights Comm., General Comment No. 14, U.N. Doc. HRI/GEN/1/Rev.1 at 18 (1994); ICCPR arts. 4(2), 5(2), supra note 10.
[72] U.N. Human Rights Comm., General Comment No. 6, supra note 71.
[73] Id. para. 5.
[74] See, e.g., Gül v. Turkey, para. 76-83, app. no. 22676/93, Dec, 14, 2000; McCann et. al v. U.K., app. no. 1998/91, Sept. 27, 1995.
[75] See Pedro Pablo Carmago v. Colombia, Human Rights Comm., Comm’n No. 45/1979, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/OP/1 at 112 (1985); Promotion and Protection of Human Rights paras. 46-48, U.N. Doc. A/61/311 (Sept. 5, 2006)..


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Political Killings, Assassinations, Political Freedom