UN expert report on protection of the dead – ECC statement

On 25 June the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions presented his most recent report to the Human Rights Council 56th Regular Session. The focus of the report is on Protection of the Dead, includng in situations of armed conflict. The report examines states’ obligations to protect the dead from a human rights perspective, and includes recommendations for the development of human rights-based guiding principles for the protection of the dead to bridge the gap between different levels of protections for dead persons under international law.

Every Casualty Counts made the following intervention for the interactive dialogue on the report:

Every Casualty Worldwide intervention for Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions

Human Rights Council 56th Regular Session, 25 June 2024

ECW strongly supports this report, its recommendations and conclusions.

We note that several of the recommendations echo those of the High Commissioner’s report to this Council on the impact of casualty recording, as well as ECC’s own report on Casualty Recording in International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law.

In this respect, we wish to highlight the report’s recommendation that States, international organizations and other relevant actors should take steps to harmonize protections for the dead across international law by developing universally applicable guiding principles, based on human rights, for the comprehensive protection of the dead.

In 2016, following extensive consultation with a range of actors, ECW published harmonised Standards for Casualty Recording to facilitate comprehensive identification and documentation of the dead in situations of armed violence. We respectfully suggest that these standards, already widely recognised, could contribute to the harmonisation efforts the SR recommends, and welcome the opportunity to assist with this endeavour.

ECW encourages all States to support the report’s recommendations. As a matter of urgency, we encourage states in a position to do so to dedicate additional resources and technical assistance to efforts to recover, identify, document and dispose of the dead with dignity in situations of armed conflict.

Whilst the ultimate responsibility for protection of the dead and the rights of victims’ families lies with states, it is often states themselves who are implicated in unlawful deaths. In recognition of this, we would welcome further recommendations from the SR on how the international community can support the work of independent civil society initiatives in upholding respect for the dead in situations of armed conflict and similar contexts.

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