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Advanced Human Rights Course: Right to Life

Course date: 10 - 13 April 2017

The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, along with the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights will host a 4-day intensive short course on ‘The Right to Life’ from 10 - 13 April 2017 as part of their new collaboration on ‘Freedom from Violence’.

Graduate Centre, University of Pretoria Main Campus

About the course

The right to life is often described as the ‘supreme right’ and States are required to take positive steps to respect and to protect this right. The right to life is protected under the main international treaties and in the constitutions of most countries in the word – including in Africa. At the same time, it is not an absolute right – under certain circumstances force may be used and life may be taken.

There are many current developments in this dynamic field. Various initiatives relate for example to the death penalty; the use of force by law enforcement officials during arrest and demonstrations; custodial death; the conduct of hostilities; and the investigation of potentially unlawful deaths.

New technologies such as drones and body worn cameras introduce new challenges and opportunities. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, for its part, recently adopted a comprehensive ‘General Comment’ on the right to life in the African Charter, dealing with many of these issues, which has already had an impact beyond the borders of Africa.



Topics include:

  • Use of force by law enforcement
  • Progressive abolition of the death penalty
  • Violence reduction and the SDGs
  • The State's duty to investigate
  • Protecting the right to life during armed conflict
  • Management of assemblies/Public Order Policing


The short course, the first to be presented on an annual basis, is aimed in particular at academics based at African universities – people who can use the insights gained back home in the courses they present for example on human rights or international humanitarian law. While the primary focus is on academics, others who have a strong interest in the topic (prosecutors, police or military legal officers etc) may also attend. The course is also aimed at equipping African experts to play a stronger role in international discussions on right to life topics.

Especially young scholars are encouraged to apply.


The course leader is Prof Christof Heyns, former UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (2010 to 2016). Lectures are presented by leading experts in the field.


The course fee is ZAR 3 000 (US $ 450). This fee covers tuition, course materials, teas and lunch for the duration of the course.
The fee excludes transport and accommodation costs.
Participants must arrange and fund their own transport and accommodation.


A maximum or 30 students are admitted per year and admission is competitive.
Applicants must indicate on the on-line application form whether they wish to apply for a partial scholarship and provide sufficient motivation substantiating why they require financial assistance.
Applicants must also indicate whether they would still like to be considered for admission in the event that they are not granted a partial scholarship.

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