The Centre for Human Rights has a project on extrajudicial killings, and as part of that provides research and financial support to the work of Christof Heyns, Director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa, in his role as United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. Some of this support is provided through the Unlawful Killings Unit, headed by Dr Thomas Probert, who also serves as senior researcher to Prof Heyns. The Centre also supports the appointment of other researchers working for the Rapporteur, and his and their traveling costs when not covered by the UN.
The Centre's support has also included appointing a former LLM students with the African Commission, as part of its initiative to provide alumni with practical experience. Mr Paul Ogendi as a legal officer in the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights in The Gambia, focused specifically on the right to life, and works with Prof Heyns at the same time. As part of its collaboration with the African Commission, in 2013 the Centre and Prof Heyns hosted in Pretoria a meeting of members of the Commission’s Working Group on the Death Penalty and Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings in Africa, when they were drafting a new protocol to the African Charter on the abolition of the death penalty. Since 2014 Prof Heyns and the Unlawful Killings Unit worked with the Commission to develop its General Comment on the Right to Life, which they adopted in 2015. This entailed convening expert meetings in Kigali and Geneva, involving, among others, members and staff of other regional human rights systems who deal with right to life matters.
The Unit has provided research assistance to Prof Heyns in the preparation of several thematic reports to the UN Human Rights Council and the General Assembly, on subjects ranging from the death penalty to the use of information communication technologies to protect human rights.
In order to update the UN Manual on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, the Centre supported a number of meetings of the legal and forensic Working Groups in Geneva and New York.
During 2016 the Centre will support the Rapporteur to host the first annual seminar for right to life practitioners, especially from regional systems, in Geneva.
As part of its LLM/MPhil in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa programme, the Centre has a clinical group on extra-judicial executions, or the right to life, which provides an opportunity for students from across the African continent to participate in this this work.