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Condemned by Law: Assassination of Political Dissidents Abroad

killing by their own security forces.”76 The U.N. Human Rights Committee’s General Comment on the legal obligations of states party to the ICCPR also explicitly states that the continued failure to punish and prevent extrajudicial killings may constitute a crime against humanity.77

The U.N. General Assembly has, on numerous occasions, addressed the prohibition on extrajudicial killings in unequivocal terms. In response to a continuous increase in the incidents of such killings, it passed a resolution in 1996 explicitly condemning the practice.78 The language of the resolution “demands that all Governments ensure that the practice of extrajudicial … executions be brought to an end.”79 The resolution also recognizes that all governments have an obligation to “conduct exhaustive and impartial investigations into all suspected cases of extrajudicial … executions.”80 In addition to the U.N. General Assembly, the Special Rapporteur on Summary or Arbitrary Executions is specifically charged with the monitoring and regulation of Article 6(1) of the Covenant.81 By mandate, the Special Rapporteur may take action in cases of extrajudicial killings linked to attacks by “state officials, paramilitary groups, private individuals or groups cooperating with or tolerated by [a member state].”82 The Rapporteur’s mandate requires it to pay “special attention” to extrajudicial killings carried out against individuals engaged in “peaceful activities in defence of human rights.”83 The Rapporteur also has a mandate to investigate breaches of the obligation to investigate alleged violations of the right to life and to provide adequate compensation to victims.84 This mandate applies to all forms of extrajudicial killing, whether they take place during armed conflict, times of peace or in the context of “targeted killings” of alleged terrorists.85

[76] U.N. Human Rights Comm., General Comment 6 para. 3, supra note 71.
[77] See id. U.N. Human Rights Comm., General Comment 31, para. 8, supra note 65. For discussion and analysis of possible crimes against humanity charges against the Islamic Republic for the assassination of its political dissidents, see infra § 5.4.
[78] Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, G.A. Res. 51/92, U.N. Doc A/RES/51/92 (Dec. 12, 1996).
[79] Id. para. 2.
[80] Id. para. 3.
[81] The Special Rapporteur is appointed by the Human Rights Commission (now the Human Rights Council), but is technically an employee of the U.N. Office for the Commission on Human Rights. See Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/AboutUs/Pages/WhoWeAre.aspx (last visited Oct. 31, 2008). The office of the Special Rapporteur was established by resolution in 1982, and is also responsible for investigations of human rights violations pursuant to Articles 6, 14, and 15 of the Covenant. See OFFICE OF THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER ON HUMAN RIGHTS, Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, and Arbitrary Executions, Methods, available at www.unhchr.ch/html/menu2/7/b/execut/exe_meth.htm (last visited Oct. 31, 2008) [hereinafter Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings - Methods]. In 1992, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights passed a resolution seeking to widen the mandate of the Special Rapporteur to all violations of the right to life, including the practice of extrajudicial killings. Commission on Human Rights, Resolution 1992/79 (Mar. 5, 1992). In addition to the findings of the Special Rapporteur, the rulings and General Comments of the Human Rights Committee and other international human rights bodies such as the Inter-American Court on Human Rights and the European Court on Human Rights are not technically binding on Iran. See id. at http://www.ohchr.org/EN/AboutUs/Pages/WhoWeAre.aspx (last visited Oct. 31, 2008).
[82] OFFICE OF THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER ON HUMAN RIGHTS, Model Questionnaire of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, and Arbitrary Executions, available at www.unhchr.ch/html/menu2/7/b/execut/exequest.htm (last visited Oct. 31, 2008); see also Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings - Methods, supra note 81. This mandate includes investigations into breaches of the right to life during “armed conflict” in violation of international humanitarian law. See Question of the Violation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in Any Part of the World, with Particular Reference to Colonial and Other Dependent Countries and Territories, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/1993/46 (Dec. 23, 1992).
[83]Report of the Special Rapporteur of Dec. 22, 2004 para. 7(f), supra note 68.
[84] See OFFICE OF THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER ON HUMAN RIGHTS, Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, and Arbitrary Executions, Mandate, available at www.unhchr.ch/html/menu2/7/b/execut/exe_mand.htm (last visited Oct. 31, 2008).
[85] See, e.g., OFFICE OF THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER ON HUMAN RIGHTS, Report of the Special Rapporteur, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/4/20 (Jan. 29, 2007); Report of the Special Rapporteur of Dec. 22, 2004 para. 50, supra note 68.

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Political Killings, Assassinations, Political Freedom