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Condemned by Law: Assassination of Political Dissidents Abroad

and has arguably elevated to the level of customary international law.49 The existence of a prohibition against perfidious killings, even during times of “armed conflict,” highlights the degree to which international law frowns upon assassinations.

Unlike international humanitarian law, the human rights legal regime is not limited in applicability to violations perpetrated during “armed conflict.”50 On the contrary, human rights law is concerned with the protection of fundamental rights for everyone, regardless of the victim’s status, the means used to expunge his or her fundamental rights or whether the violations occurred during times of peace or war.51 More importantly, international human rights laws vitiate claims of sovereignty which traditionally protect member states from monitoring and regulation of their internal affairs.52

The integrity of the international human rights regime rests on two foundational documents: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Declaration)53 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Covenant or ICCPR).54 The Covenant was adopted in 1966 and entered into force in 1976.55 Unlike the Declaration, the ICCPR (and the companion International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) impose affirmative obligations on member states, including the duty to implement national legislation in order to “give effect to the rights recognized” in the treaty and the duty to provide “effective remedies” when violations of those duties occur.56 Specifically, the Covenant requires all member states to “respect and to ensure to all individuals within [their] territory and subject to [their] jurisdiction” all rights recognized by the Covenant irrespective of “race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”57 With more than one hundred signatories, the Covenant is the most significant and comprehensive instrument guaranteeing protections of international human rights.58

Iran has ratified the ICCPR.59 The Islamic Republic’s campaign of state-sponsored assassinations on foreign soil is merely an extension of the regime’s systematic persecution of political dissidents inside the country.60 This persecution has taken many forms, ranging from the

[49] See, e.g., Protocol I art. 7, supra note 38. Article 37 of the Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Convention provides four examples illustrating “treacherous” conduct, including 1) feigning a desire to negotiate under a truce or surrender flag; 2) feigning incapacitation by wounds or sickness; 3) feigning civilian, non-combatant status; and 4) feigning protected status by the use of signs, emblems or uniforms of the United Nations, neutral states, or other states not party to the conflict. Id.; see also Schmitt, supra note 2, at 634.
[50] See Proclamation of Teheran, Final Act of the International Convention on Human Rights, U.N. Doc. A/CONF 32/41 at 3 (1968).
[51] See INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS, supra note 39.
[52] See, e.g., Nicaragua v. U.S., supra note 11, at 108, 131; 22 Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal 466 (1948) (holding that “[h]e who violates the laws of war cannot obtain immunity while acting in pursuance of the authority of the state, if the state in authorizing action moves outside its competence under international law”), reprinted in 41 AM. J. INT'L L. 172, 221 (1947).
[53] Universal Declaration of Human Rights, G.A. Res. 217 A (III), Dec. 10, 1948, available at www.un.org/Overview/rights.html (last visited Oct. 31, 2008).
[54] ICCPR, supra note 10. (Jan. 2, 2007).
[55] Id. (Jan. 2, 2007).
[56]Id. art. 2; see also generally International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, U.N. Doc. U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), 993 U.N.T.S. 3, entered into force Jan. 3, 1976 [hereinafter ICESCR].
[57] ICCPR art. 2, supra note 10.
[58] See OFFICE OF THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, International Convention for Civil and Political Rights, available at www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/ratification/4.htm (last visited Oct. 31, 2008).
[59] See id.; see also INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS, Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, available at www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/WebSign?ReadForm&id=375&ps=P (last visited Oct. 31, 2008); INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS, Convention (II) with Respect to the Laws and Customs of War with its annex, available at www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/WebSign?ReadForm&id=150&ps=P (last visited Oct. 31, 2008).
[60] See NO SAFE HAVEN, supra note 25, at 5-14.

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Political Killings, Assassinations, Political Freedom