Research Discussion: Prof Heyns for 16 of November
By Wilhelm Preller
Posted on 11 November 2011
The discussion will focus on reports to the United Nations:
The use of lethal force during demonstrations.
The use of lethal force during arrest
The safety of journalists
The death penalty
Outline for Research Discussion by Christof Heyns, Wednesday, 16 November at 10:00, Moot court The discussion will focus on two reports that I have recently presented to the United Nations:
1) The use of lethal force during demonstrations
Here the question is to what extent are the police authorised under international law to use deadly force during demonstrations. The immediate context of the report was the so-called Arab Spring, but the issue is universal, and covers service delivery riots, ‘Occupy Wall Street’ and other manifestations of freedom of assembly. (The Human Rights Council report is available at: http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G11/134/47/PDF/G1113447.pdf?OpenElement\)
2) The use of lethal force during arrest
When are the police entitled to use deadly force in the course of an arrest? Also, what is the applicable legal framework when someone like Osama bin Laden, or Muammar Gadaffi is apprehended? Is there a duty to offer them an opportunity to surrender? (For the General Assembly report see http://web.up.ac.za/sitefiles/file/47/15338/Annual_Report_30_August_2011.pdf)
For the above reports I compared the applicable laws of around 100 states, as measured against the international standards. I proposed the application of the ‘protection of life principle’, based on the international standards such as the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, and explored its implications for the cases at hand.
There will probably not be time to discuss the topics for the 2012 reports in any detail, but I am keen to establish whether there are local researchers who are interested in the following areas:
3) The safety of journalists
Journalists in many countries around the world increasingly find themselves at the receiving end of targeted violence – in other words, they are not merely caught up in the crossfire, but they are singled out because of their work. What are the dynamics at work? And what is the proper framework for their protection? Should they put their faith in the law, or should they seek other avenues? This report is prepared in collaboration with the University of Cambridge.
4) The death penalty
There has recently been much movement in respect of the death penalty. Many states either de jure or de facto no longer execute people. According to some commentators we are on the verge of a historical watershed, where the death penalty – like other earlier forms of punishment – may be consigned to the past. Yet many problems remain. A small number of countries still execute thousands of people per year (no one knows how many), often without proper safeguards and for non-serious crimes. And progress in other countries is often fragile. Questions such as what are appropriate alternative forms of punishment – and what to do if the population at large wants the death penalty to remain in place – present serious difficulties. The partners for this report are the University of Middlesex and Harvard Law School.