Resolution 1989/65

                                                         15th plenary meeting

                                                         24 May 1989


         Effective prevention and investigation of

        extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions


      The Economic and Social Council,


      Recalling that article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

 proclaims that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person,


      Bearing in mind that paragraph 1 of article 6 of the International

 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that every human being has an

 inherent right to life, that that right shall be protected by law and that no

 one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his or her life,


      Also bearing in mind the general comments of the Human Rights Committee

 on the right to life as enunciated in article 6 of the International Covenant

 on Civil and Political Rights,


      Stressing that extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions contravene

 the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the Universal

 Declaration of Human Rights,


      Mindful that the Seventh United Nations Congress on the Prevention of

 Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, in resolution 11 on extra-legal,

 arbitrary and summary executions, called upon all Governments to take urgent

 and incisive action to investigate such acts, wherever they may occur, to

 punish those found guilty and to take all other measures necessary to prevent

 those practices,


      Mindful also that the Economic and Social Council, in section VI of its

 resolution 1986/10 of 21 May 1986, requested the Committee on Crime Prevention

 and Control to consider at its tenth session the question of extra-legal,

 arbitrary and summary executions with a view to elaborating principles on the

 effective prevention and investigation of such practices,


      Recalling that the General Assembly in its resolution 33/173 of

 20 December 1978 expressed its deep concern at reports from various parts of

 the world relating to enforced or involuntary disappearances and called upon


 Governments, in the event of such reports, to take appropriate measures to

 searching for such persons and to undertake speedy and impartial



      Noting with appreciation the efforts of non-governmental organizations to

 develop standards for investigations,


      Emphasizing that the General Assembly in its resolution 42/141 of

 7 December 1987 strongly condemned once again the large number of summary or

 arbitrary executions, including extra-legal executions, that continued to take

 place in various parts of the world,


      Noting that in the same resolution the General Assembly recognized the

 need for closer co-operation between the Centre for Human Rights, the Crime

 Prevention and Criminal Justice Branch of the Centre for Social Development

 and Humanitarian Affairs and the Committee on Crime Prevention and Control in

 an effort to bring to an end summary or arbitrary executions,


      Aware that effective prevention and investigation of extra-legal,

 arbitrary and summary executions requires the provision of adequate financial

 and technical resources,


      1.   Recommends that the Principles on the Effective Prevention and

 Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions annexed to the

 present resolution shall be taken into account and respected by Governments

 within the framework of their national legislation and practices, and shall be

 brought to the attention of law enforcement and criminal justice officials,

 military personnel, lawyers, members of the executive and legislative bodies

 of the Government and the public in general;


      2.   Requests the Committee on Crime Prevention and Control to keep the

 above recommendations under constant review, including implementation of the

 Principles, taking into account the various socio-economic, political and

 cultural circumstances in which extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions



      3.   Invites Member States that have not yet ratified or acceded to

 international instruments that prohibit extra-legal, arbitrary and summary

 executions, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political

 Rights, the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and

 Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman

 or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to become parties to these instruments;


      4.   Requests the Secretary-General to include the Principles in the

 United Nations publication entitled Human Rights:  A Compilation of

 International Instruments;


      5.   Requests the United Nations regional and interregional institutes

 for the prevention of crime and the treatment of offenders to give special

 attention in their research and training programmes to the Principles, and to

 the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the provisions of

 the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment

 or Punishment, the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, the

 Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of

 Power and other international instruments relevant to the question of

 extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions.







 1.   Governments shall prohibit by law all extra-legal, arbitrary and summary

 executions and shall ensure that any such executions are recognized as

 offences under their criminal laws, and are punishable by appropriate

 penalties which take into account the seriousness of such offences.

 Exceptional circumstances including a state of war or threat of war, internal

 political instability or any other public emergency may not be invoked as a

 justification of such executions.  Such executions shall not be carried out

 under any circumstances including, but not limited to, situations of internal

 armed conflict, excessive or illegal use of force by a public official or

 other person acting in an official capacity or a person acting at the

 instigation, or with the consent or acquiescence of such person, and

 situations in which deaths occur in custody.  This prohibition shall prevail

 over decrees issued by governmental authority.


 2.   In order to prevent extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions,

 Governments shall ensure strict control, including a clear chain of command

 over all officials responsible for the apprehension, arrest, detention,

 custody and imprisonment as well as those officials authorized by law to use

 force and firearms.


 3.   Governments shall prohibit orders from superior officers or public

 authorities authorizing or inciting other persons to carry out any such

 extra-legal, arbitrary or summary executions.  All persons shall have the

 right and the duty to defy such orders.  Training of law enforcement officials

 shall emphasize the above provisions.


 4.   Effective protection through judicial or other means shall be guaranteed

 to individuals and groups who are in danger of extra-legal, arbitrary or

 summary executions, including those who receive death threats.


 5.   No one shall be involuntarily returned or extradited to a country where

 there are substantial grounds for believing that he or she may become a victim

 of extra-legal, arbitrary or summary execution in that country.


 6.   Governments shall ensure that persons deprived of their liberty are held

 in officially recognized places of custody, and that accurate information on

 their custody and whereabouts, including transfers, is made promptly available

 to their relatives and lawyer or other persons of confidence.


 7.   Qualified inspectors, including medical personnel, or an equivalent

 independent authority, shall conduct inspections in places of custody on a

 regular basis, and be empowered to undertake unannounced inspections on their

 own initiative, with full guarantees of independence in the exercise of this

 function.  The inspectors shall have unrestricted access to all persons in

 such places of custody, as well as to all their records.


 8.   Governments shall make every effort to prevent extra-legal, arbitrary and

 summary executions through measures such as diplomatic intercession, improved

 access of complainants to intergovernmental and judicial bodies, and public

 denunciation.  Intergovernmental mechanisms shall be used to investigate

 reports of any such executions and to take effective action against such

 practices.  Governments, including those of countries where extra-legal,

 arbitrary and summary executions are reasonably suspected to occur, shall

 co-operate fully in international investigations on the subject.




 9.   There shall be a thorough, prompt and impartial investigation of all

 suspected cases of extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions, including

 cases where complaints by relatives or other reliable reports suggest

 unnatural death in the above circumstances.  Governments shall maintain

 investigative offices and procedures to undertake such inquiries.  The purpose

 of the investigation shall be to determine the cause, manner and time of

 death, the person responsible, and any pattern or practice which may have

 brought about that death.  It shall include an adequate autopsy, collection

 and analysis of all physical and documentary evidence, and statements from

 witnesses.  The investigation shall distinguish between natural death,

 accidental death, suicide and homicide.


 10.  The investigative authority shall have the power to obtain all the

 information necessary to the inquiry.  Those persons conducting the

 investigation shall have at their disposal all the necessary budgetary and

 technical resources for effective investigation.  They shall also have the

 authority to oblige officials allegedly involved in any such executions to

 appear and testify.  The same shall apply to any witness.  To this end, they

 shall be entitled to issue summons to witnesses, including the officials

 allegedly involved, and to demand the production of evidence.


 11.  In cases in which the established investigative procedures are inadequate

 because of lack of expertise or impartiality, because of the importance of the

 matter or because of the apparent existence of a pattern of abuse, and in

 cases where there are complaints from the family of the victim about these

 inadequacies or other substantial reasons, Governments shall pursue

 investigations through an independent commission of inquiry or similar

 procedure.  Members of such a commission shall be chosen for their recognized

 impartiality, competence and independence as individuals.  In particular, they

 shall be independent of any institution, agency or person that may be the

 subject of the inquiry.  The commission shall have the authority to obtain all

 information necessary to the inquiry and shall conduct the inquiry as provided

 for under these Principles.


 12.  The body of the deceased person shall not be disposed of until an

 adequate autopsy is conducted by a physician, who shall, if possible, be an

 expert in forensic pathology.  Those conducting the autopsy shall have the

 right of access to all investigative data, to the place where the body was

 discovered, and to the place where the death is thought to have occurred.  If

 the body has been buried and it later appears that an investigation is

 required, the body shall be promptly and competently exhumed for an autopsy.

 If skeletal remains are discovered, they should be carefully exhumed and

 studied according to systematic anthropological techniques.


 13.  The body of the deceased shall be available to those conducting the

 autopsy for a sufficient amount of time to enable a thorough investigation to

 be carried out.  The autopsy shall, at a minimum, attempt to establish the

 identity of the deceased and the cause and manner of death.  The time and

 place of death shall also be determined to the extent possible.  Detailed

 colour photographs of the deceased shall be included in the autopsy report in

 order to document and support the findings of the investigation.  The autopsy

 report must describe any and all injuries to the deceased including any

 evidence of torture.


 14.  In order to ensure objective results, those conducting the autopsy must

 be able to function impartially and independently of any potentially

 implicated persons or organizations or entities.


 15.  Complainants, witnesses, those conducting the investigation and their

 families shall be protected from violence, threats of violence or any other

 form of intimidation.  Those potentially implicated in extra-legal, arbitrary

 or summary executions shall be removed from any position of control or power,

 whether direct or indirect, over complainants, witnesses and their families,

 as well as over those conducting investigations.


 16.  Families of the deceased and their legal representatives shall be

 informed of, and have access to, any hearing as well as to all information

 relevant to the investigation, and shall be entitled to present other

 evidence.  The family of the deceased shall have the right to insist that a

 medical or other qualified representative be present at the autopsy.  When the

 identity of a deceased person has been determined, a notification of death

 shall be posted, and the family or relatives of the deceased immediately

 informed.  The body of the deceased shall be returned to them upon completion

 of the investigation.


 17.  A written report shall be made within a reasonable period of time on the

 methods and findings of such investigations.  The report shall be made public

 immediately and shall include the scope of the inquiry, procedures and methods

 used to evaluate evidence as well as conclusions and recommendations based on

 findings of fact and on applicable law.  The report shall also describe in

 detail specific events that were found to have occurred, and the evidence upon

 which such findings were based, and list the names of witnesses who testified,

 with the exception of those whose identities have been withheld for their own

 protection.  The Government shall, within a reasonable period of time, either

 reply to the report of the investigation, or indicate the steps to be taken in

 response to it.

                               Legal proceedings


 18.  Governments shall ensure that persons identified by the investigation as

 having participated in extra-legal, arbitrary or summary executions in any

 territory under their jurisdiction are brought to justice.  Governments shall

 either bring such persons to justice or co-operate to extradite any such

 persons to other countries wishing to exercise jurisdiction.  This principle

 shall apply irrespective of who and where the perpetrators or the victims are,

 their nationalities or where the offence was committed.


 19.  Without prejudice to Principle 3 above, an order from a superior officer

 or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification for extra-legal,

 arbitrary or summary executions.  Superiors, officers or other public

 officials may be held responsible for acts committed by officials under their

 hierarchical authority if they had a reasonable opportunity to prevent such

 acts.  In no circumstances, including a state of war, siege or other public

 emergency, shall blanket immunity from prosecution be granted to any person

 allegedly involved in extra-legal, arbitrary or summary executions.


 20.  The families and dependents of victims of extra-legal, arbitrary or

 summary executions shall be entitled to fair and adequate compensation within

 a reasonable period of time.