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A Short Study On Extrajudicial Killings

Extrajudicial killing is executing a person illegally. It disregards human rights. It is the practice of unlawfully killing of any person without any sanction or legal process, by government authorities. The investigation hardly takes place, there is not even the proper complaint filed. It straight away violates the human rights of individuals, denying them any opportunity of contacting their legal representatives or legal advisors.

The situation of unlawful killings is different in different countries. It is found and practiced most commonly in Ethiopia, Indonesia, India, Iraq, Jamaica, Pakistan, Mexico, Philippines, Russia, Turkey, Thailand, and Nigeria.

There recently was a case in the Philippines in 2016, where the president urged to kill suspected criminals and drug addicts. The policy aimed at the neutralization of illegal drug personalities nationwide' but later on the policy was widely condemned internationally and locally. The people of the Philippines rose against it and protested against the human rights violation.

The hurdles of ending this are not something impossible but achievable. There are various factors that affect extrajudicial killing. Once it is controlled, the practice of unlawful killing will be solved up to much extent. There are certain provisions and prevention programs in most countries but there is no definite law prohibiting unlawful killings, to prevent this kind of human rights violation. Like in the Philippines there's a committee working against the torture of extrajudicial killings.

The research includes a detailed study of extrajudicial and other unlawful killings.

Further, the study discusses explicitly how it has its existence in different countries of the world and how it violates the rights of human beings. Apart from that, the analysis elaborates, what amounts to extrajudicial killing, what are its causes, illegal killings by police force in India, extrajudicial execution by police in Nigeria, the drug war of the Philippines and how the countries try to combat the problem.

Human beings expect to have minimum basic rights and liberties respected. The state or the government is the sole authority to promote and protect the rights of its citizens. The state authority mainly includes the police department, the army department, the judiciary, and the civic administration.

But unfortunately, the duty men while doing their prescribed duty violate certain rights. Among the most dreadful human rights violation, no other practice is more audacious than extrajudicial killing. The meaning of extrajudicial itself is something not done in the court of law.

Extrajudicial killing is an illegal execution. It is a disregard for basic human rights which is the right to life. Though there is no legal definition of extrajudicial killing it is usually described as an unlawful killing of a person by any government authority or individual without any approval of legal proceedings or government order.

The nature of this act is naturally unlawful and is mostly carried out by the state government or other authorities of state like the police force, armed force, etc. the deadly punishments include deaths caused by strafing, assassinations, indiscriminate firing, slaughter, and mass killing.

Significance of research
The research is based on the incidents of extrajudicial killings from all over the world. Most importantly landmark incidents covered are cases of Nigeria, Bangladesh, Philippine drug war, and unaccounted police encounters of India. The research also draws attention to the causes of extrajudicial killings in various countries and how it violates the human rights. The scrutiny is purely about what is unlawful killings and its practice in various countries of the world.

Issues and challenges
Humans are entitled to basic civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. Article 20(1) of the Indian constitution provides the citizens with protection in respect of conviction for offenses and article 21with protection of life. Extrajudicial or unlawful killing on the other right is a clear violation of these human rights.

According to human rights watch, 1000 unlawful killings have been recorded over the past decade. They were named prosecutions of the guilty but that led to the killings of civilians as well.

This violation can be evidently seen in most south Asian countries like Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh and also in Nigeria, Philippines. India's practice of extrajudicial killing is not something new. The civilians have been victimized various times. According to the report of the National Human Rights Commission, there were 108 reported encounter killings between the security force and alleged criminals. In another report, 6 individuals were killed while protesting in Madhya Pradesh. The victims were later were paid but the reports were never concluded officially.

There are also cases of custodian deaths wherein the prisoners or detainees are killed while they are being investigated. It is very rarely seen where the policemen who extra-judicially killed detainees, are punished under the eyes of the law. The infamous Urutti Kolai case was one such incident was the policemen were awarded the death penalty for the first time in special CBI court in Thiruvananthapuram.

They were accused of murdering a 26-year-old in the theft case, during interrogation, they used a heavy rod to torture him and hence this resulted in his death. The torture technique used was too intensive. While there was other three accused who were punished with three years of imprisonment. The CBI held that it was brutal and dastardly murder and categorized it in the rarest of rare cases.

Not only in India but in countries like Nigeria unlawful killings still prevail and in much bigger number. They're also the case is almost the same. The Nigerian police force is to be blamed for the hundreds of extrajudicial killings, every year. According to a Police Force Order 237 officers in Nigeria, are allowed to shoot suspects or detainees trying to escape arrest. This is the main reason behind officers easily getting away with murders.

In one of the incidents, a robber was shot and killed by police force. For this, the court held no one responsibly. Amnesty International has documented various cases of forced disappearance and killing at will. The report says that in most cases officers' encounters go unprocessed. If few are suspected of extrajudicial killing, they are either transferred to other states or sent on training.

The police force is highly influenced by bribes and its main reason is the shortage of funds from the government. The challenges to this illegal practice are huge but ending it is not impossible. It is crucial to set a culture that respects every human right equally of every being. On the other hand, the Philippines went through a major case wherein President Rodrigo Duterte commanded war on drugs. The war on drugs originally meant killing the drug dealers. This led to about 12,000 deaths of Filipinos. Theses killings amounted to unjustified killings by officials.

According to these officials, they were given the license to kill. A report of human rights watch examines 24 of the incidents which resulted in 32 deaths throughout the country. Duterte's war on drugs had significant negative effects on public health and violated human rights on a large scale.

Dozens of unofficial killings used to take place in the Philippines. There was no meaningful investigation of killings of drug offenders, no police officer was held accountable. The Philippine's judicial system is perceived as corrupt and thus Duterte enabled anti-drug campaign violating various human rights.

Section 46 of the Indian Criminal Procedure Court allows police officials to use all means necessary' to arrest a detainee or to control the situation. The use of excessive force than actually required may cause death.

The Special Rapporteur remembers in this regard that the international human rights standards on the employment of force in line with the principles of essentially and proportionality, as explained in paragraph eight, additionally apply within the context of policing assemblies, as well as the dispersal of violent assemblies.

There is an Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act provides with wide-ranging powers to the Indian Defense Force in respect of using lethal force in numerous instances and fails to produce safeguards just in case of excessive use of such powers, that eventually ends up in varied accounts of violations committed in areas where AFSPA is applied.

Section 4 of AFSPA provides:

Any commissioned officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer may, in a disturbed area, (a) if he is of opinion that it is necessary to do so for the maintenance of public order, after giving such due warning as he may consider necessary, fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law or order for the time being in force in the disturbed area...

Section 6 of AFSPA and 7 of the Jammu and Kashmir AFSPA, grants protection to the officers acting under these Acts and stipulate that prosecution of members of the armed forces is prohibited unless sanction to prosecute is granted by the central Government.

The Special record keeper was inspired to listen from many organizations that AFSPA is within the method of being amended, which can cause reduced powers provided to the defense force acting beneath this act. This was often a welcomed opening move. From the case of Bacchan Singh v. the State of Punjab, it was declared that the death penalty will only be imposed in the rarest of rare cases.

Judicial approach
The United Nations Human Rights Commission provides a report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings or arbitrary killings. The Special Rapporteur works mostly on the basis of information given by non-governmental organizations. In resolution 1997/61 it was requested to carry out proper examinations of extrajudicial killing situations, to exchange better dialogues with government, pay special attention to unlawful executions of people doing peaceful activities, killings of children and women, etc. in India.

Amnesty International is a worldwide working nongovernmental organization, which is based in London. It is a movement of 7 million people who stand against any injustice. They investigate the abuses by government or other powerful groups, expose them and stand for change.

They mainly support people to stand for their rights through education and training programs. Their main aim is to protect people's rights, they work against unlawful detention, the death penalty, armed conflict, detention, and fight for freedom of expression, international justice, refugees, asylum seekers, sexual and reproductive rights. Since Amnesty International is based in various countries it points out extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations being practiced in respective countries. Extrajudicial killings are more common in Nigeria therefore the NGO is more active regarding this.

In India, the extrajudicial executions can be reported to the Central Bureau of Investigation. Further, the Supreme Court has to strengthen fundamental rights and it is now a must to amend the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

Unlawful killings by a government officials and other powerful groups have been in practice in most countries. Reports are filed but never investigated or rarely examined. There are still many cases of extrajudicial executions in Nigeria, India, Philippines, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nicaragua etc. there are still many challenges to overcome. The issues of officers executing illegally, custodial deaths, fake encounters still prevail on a high scale.

There are no special acts or strong legislation made against this practice. Although the court has ordered to set up a special investigation and has recommended that the National Human Rights Commission takes part in it actively. There are other NGOs who work against this like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, etc. The United Nations provides for the protection of basic human rights but it never really has taken strong steps besides commanding governments for follow-ups.

Ultimately to curb this crime there needs to be a strong act protecting the right to life of people in the country, a must change in the acts which provide powers to officials and change in the mentality of the powerful groups as well as educating people with their rights.


    1. Strafing is the military practice of attacking ground targets from low-flying aircraft
    3. K. Soman v. State of Kerala, Kerala High Court (9Jan, 2015)
    5. Bacchan Singh v. State of Punjab, 1980 (2 SCC 684) vi titles given to individuals working on behalf of the United Nations (UN) within the scope of "special procedure" mechanisms who have a specific country.

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