UN votes in favour of naming those most at risk of extrajudicial killings


The United Nations has voted in favour of retaining in a resolution a list of specific groups at most risk of extrajudicial killings – including human rights defenders, following frustrating calls by the States of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to delete the references.   

The UN Third Committee has reaffirmed the UN’s prior decisions to be explicit about groups of people at most risk of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. References to specific groups are contained in a paragraph of the resolution on the issue presented to the Third Committee biennially. Invariably these references have been the basis for calls for a vote on the resolution. For over 10 years their inclusion has been defended. 

ISHR's Eleanor Openshaw said the resolution on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions speaks to fundamental issues of the right to life and the fight against impunity.

‘It is deeply frustrating to see this debate resurface at the UN about whether or not to include the list of those groups of people most at risk. This has been debated over and over and should now be considered settled. States should move to fulfill their commitments to preventing extrajudicial killings and ensuring due process when they occur,' said Ms Openshaw

This year, Uzbekistan introduced an amendment on behalf of the OIC effectively withdrawing the list of those most at risk of extrajudicial killings. Given that it is not possible to list all those vulnerable to extrajudicial killings, Uzbekistan argued, it is better to have no list.  They also noted that specific individuals shouldn’t be given priority ‘at the expense of others’.

States strongly rejected the amendment. Swedish Ambassador, Mr Olof Skoog, noted that the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings has repeatedly brought to the world's attention that some groups are more at risk.  ‘The paragraph mirrors the reality on the ground’, he said. 

‘The paragraph has been included for over 10 years,’ the Ambassador added. The list is not exhaustive but that doesn’t make it irrelevant. These groups are vulnerable.’

‘The OIC misrepresents the purpose of naming particular groups,’ said ISHR's Eleanor Openshaw. ‘The aim is not to provide them with special protections or rights, but to enable particular attention to be paid to their protection given the greater risk they are considered to face,’ she said. 

Included in the list is reference to killings of people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Attempts to remove this reference was described by the US Ambassador Mandelson as  ‘a thinly veiled attempt to imply that those with different sexual orientation or gender identity don’t have the same rights as everyone else.’

Ambassador Mandelson added that although she recognizes that the concept of sexual orientation and gender identity is ‘sensitive’ in some States, the text does not ask States ‘to take a moral stance on issues’ but to identify those at most risk and ensure effective investigation of extrajudicial killings where they occur. 

Costa Rica noted that eliminating the list would ‘send a very dangerous message to those on the ground.’

Sweden speaking in name of the lead sponsors was visibly angered by the introduction of the amendment, noting the robust process undergone to negotiate the text.

The vote on the amendment showed an increase in support from previous years, although it was still roundly defeated. 2016: Yes - 60, No - 84; 2014: Yes - 53, No - 82; 2012: Yes - 44, No - 86.

Following the rejection of the amendment, a vote was taken on the resolution as a whole.  The resolution passed by 106 - 0 with 69 abstentions. 



  • NGOs
  • UN General Assembly
  • Third Committee of the UN General Assembly