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1989 | ECOSOC Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions

This ECOSOC soft law instrument requires states to prevent and criminalize extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions, to investigate all cases of these killings in order to ensure transparency and bring to justice those who participated therein.

The Principles address governments and demands them, in terms of prevention, to unconditionally prohibit and criminalize by law all extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions, which also includes extra-judicial killings. Exceptional circumstances –e.g. (a threat of) war, internal political instability or any other public emergency- are explicitly excluded as justification of such killings. Similarly, the Principles instruct governments to prohibit orders from superior officers or public authorities authorizing or inciting other persons to carry out any such executions. Persons at risk of becoming extra-legally, arbitrarily or summarily executed are granted effective protection through judicial or other means. Furthermore, the Principles order governments to do their utmost to prevent extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions for which purpose they can resort to means as diplomacy and improved access of complainants to intergovernmental and judicial bodies.

In any case of (suspected) extra-legal, arbitrary or summary execution –which also includes cases where relatives or other reliable sources suggest an unnatural death- the Principles prescribe that a prompt and impartial investigation must follow and puts a responsibility on governments to ensure that persons suspected of having participated in such killings in any territory under their jurisdiction, are brought to justice.

Specifically relevant on the subject of reparations is Article 20 which provides that 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.