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Condemned by Law: Assassination of Political Dissidents Abroad

right to life that does not satisfy these minimum guarantees qualifies as an extrajudicial killing prohibited under international law.97 Article 6 of the Covenant mandates that the death penalty may “only be carried out pursuant to a final judgment rendered by a competent court.”98 Article 9 provides an overarching “right to liberty and security of person,” which prohibits arbitrary arrests, detention or deprivation of liberty by a member state or its security forces.99 Any action taken to restrict an individual’s liberty and security of person must be taken in accordance with adequate substantive and procedural protections reflected in the established law of the member state.100 These protections include the right to be informed of the reason for one’s arrest (during the course of one’s arrest) and the charges involved,101 the right to a hearing assessing the legality of the person’s detention,102 and the right to a timely trial before a competent court.103 The Covenant’s Article 9 protections are primarily triggered during the pre-trial and detention phases of an individual’s criminal conviction.104

Trial and post-trial guarantees provided to individuals under the Covenant are principally addressed by Article 14 of the Covenant.105 Article 14’s protections may generally be characterized as requiring member states to provide “fair hearing” to all individuals charged with violations of criminal domestic laws.106 The “fair hearing” principle addresses a variety of guarantees, including but not limited to equality (including equal access) before the courts,107 the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty,108 the right to legal counsel,109 the right to cross-examine witnesses110 and the right to appeal a verdict to a higher tribunal.111 Additionally, the Covenant requires an individual to “be tried in his presence.”112 This requirement generally prohibits the practice of conducting trials in abstentia.113 Such trials are only allowable in certain circumstances where the state makes “sufficient efforts with a view to informing the [accused person] about the impending court proceedings, thus enabling him to prepare his defense.”114

[97]U.N. COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS, Report of the Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions, Transparency and the Imposition of the Death Penalty, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/2006/53Add.3 (Mar. 24, 2006).
[98]ICCPR art. 6, supra note 10.
[99]Id. art. 9.
[100]Id. art. 15(1), supra note 10 (prohibiting punishment via ex post facto laws); Mbenge v. Zaire, U.N. Human Rights Comm., Comm’n No. 16/1977, U.N. Doc. Supp. No. 40 (A/38/40) at 134, para. 17 (1983) (“[t]his requires that both the substantive and the procedural law in the application of which the death penalty was imposed was not contrary to the provisions of the Covenant and also that the death penalty was imposed in accordance with that law and therefore in accordance with the provisions of the Covenant.”).
[101]ICCPR art. 9(2), supra note 10.
[102]Id. art. 9(4); see also id. art. 9(5) (allowing for just compensation for unlawful detention).
[103]Id. art. 9(3); see also id. art. 14(3)(c).
[104]See General Comment 32 para. 31, supra note 96.
[105]ICCPR art. 14, supra note 10; see also Vicente v. Colombia, para. 8.7, U.N. Human Rights Comm., Comm’n No. 612/1995, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/56/D/612/1995 (Mar. 14, 1996); McLawrence v. Jamaica, para. 5.9, U.N. Human Rights Comm., Comm’n No. 702/1996, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/60/D/702/1996 (July 18, 1007) (holding that the duty to inform the accused under article 14 is “more precise than the duty under article 9.”).
[106]See LEGISLATION ONLINE, OSCE OFFICE FOR DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS AND HUMAN RIGHTS, Fair Trial (Right to a), available at www.legislationonline.org (last visited Oct. 31, 2008).
[107]ICCPR art. 14(1), supra note 10.
[108]Id. art. 14(2). This is a fundamental human right according of General Comment 32. See General Comment 32, supra note 96.
[109]ICCPR art. 14(3)(b), (d), supra note 10.
[110]Id. art. 14(3)(e).
[111]Id. art. 14(5).
[112]Id. art. 14(3)(d).
[113]See Mbenge, supra note 100, at 134.
[114]Id. at 14.1 (“[j]udgment in absentia requires that, notwithstanding the absence of the accused, all due notification has been made to inform him of the date and place of his trial and to request his attendance. Otherwise, the accused, in particular, is not given adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence (art. 14(3)(b)), cannot defend himself through legal assistance of his own choosing (art. 14(3)(d)) nor does he have the opportunity to examine, or have examined, the witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf (art. 14(3)(e))”).

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Political Killings, Assassinations, Political Freedom