General Comment No. 3 On The African Charter On Human And Peoples’ Rights: The Right To Life (Article 4)

Contents

Table of Contents

Preface..........................................................................................................5

Introduction...................................................................................................7

A. The nature of the right and of the obligations of the State in

respect of the right to life.............................................................................8

B. The scope of the prohibition on the ‘arbitrary’ deprivation of life .........10

C. The requirement of accountability .........................................................10

D. The abolition of the death penalty ........................................................12

E. The use of force in law enforcement ....................................................13

F. The use of force in armed conflict..........................................................15

G. State obligations with respect to persons held in custody.....................15

H. Responsibility for violations by non-State actors ....................................16

I. Interpreting the right to life broadly..........................................................17

 


Preface

The jurisprudence of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission) has widely recognized the right to life as a foundational right. Without the right to life, other rights cannot be implemented.

General Comment No. 3 on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the right to life, protected by article 4 of the Charter, is founded on this fundamental character of the right to life and the necessity to focus on this right.

The Commission is hence pleased to present General Comment No. 3 on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the right to life (Article 4), drafted by the Working Group on the Death Penalty and Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings in Africa (the Working Group).

The Working Group decided, in July 2014, to work on a General Comment on the right to life as recognised in Article 4 of the African Charter in light of the Declaration of the Continental Conference on the Abolition of the Death Penalty in Africa (the Cotonou Declaration), noted in the report of the African Union Executive Council (Doc. Ex.CL/921(XXVII)).

The Working Group has been a focal point for the African Commission over many years on the question of the death penalty, but as more and more African States move progressively away from that barbaric and ineffective form of criminal justice, it is important for the Working Group also to underline the many other threats posed to the right to life, as reflected in the present general comment.

The African Commission hopes that this General Comment provides States, National Human Rights Institutions and civil society a useful guide to the range of application of Article 4 of the African Charter, and assures them full collaboration as we work for the better protection of the right to life in Africa.

The African Commission is very grateful for the valuable contributions from members of the Working Group and experts to the text, in particular from Professor Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions.

 

KAYITESI Zainabo Sylvie

Hon. Commissioner and Chairperson of the Working

Group on the Death Penalty and Extrajudicial, Summary

or Arbitrary Killings in Africa

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