Right to Life (Module 8, UNODC University Module series: Counter-Terrorism)

Right to Life (Module 8, UNODC University Module series: Counter-Terrorism)

The series of Modules on Counter-Terrorism Education, developed within the Education for Justice (E4J) initiative, aim to provide a relevant and valuable resource for lecturers teaching courses on counter-terrorism in universities and academic institutions across the world. The Modules seek to enhance students’ understanding of terrorism, its implications and related issues by providing foundational knowledge on relevant international, regional and national instruments and approaches. To increase their effectiveness, the Modules aim to connect theory to practice, encourage critical thinking, and use innovative interactive teaching approaches such as experiential learning, case studies and group-based work. The Modules are multi-disciplinary and can be integrated in a series of courses ranging from law to international relations, sociology, anthropology, criminology and many other disciplines. Whilst the primary focus is on the United Nations instruments, the Modules leave room for diverse perspectives and lecturers can easily adapt them to different local and cultural contexts.

Counter-Terrorism_module_overview_imageModule 8. Right to life

The right to life lies at the heart of any counter-terrorism strategy, especially the protection of life of civilians who are commonly terrorist targets. Various measures and human rights violations have been a source of contention in relation to right to life issues, including, to name a few, use of the death penalty as punishment for convicted terrorists, enforced disappearances, and targeted killings. The rhetoric surrounding such approaches has, in some instances, obscured the legal framework which governments, law enforcement agencies and the military should follow. An area of special complexity has been where the lines have become blurred between what practice is lawful and legitimate during ordinary peacetime law enforcement scenarios, compared with those occurring in times of armed conflict. In addition, the Module examines a number of problematic practices which, though undesirable including from a human rights law perspective, are nonetheless lawful where strict criteria are met, such as use of the death penalty and targeted killings. In exploring such issues, it further examines the scope of the right to life in relation to counter-terrorism law, policy and practice, considering too some of the difficult questions and predicaments that remain unresolved, including at the national, regional and international levels.

Learning outcomes

Identify and discuss many of the most topical and complex issues regarding the right to life in a counter-terrorism context.

Examine the applicable international and regional legal frameworks, and related jurisprudence, including areas of similarity and difference between them.

Consider the paradigms applicable to the right to life in both peacetime law enforcement as well as armed conflict situations, including key differences between them.

Understand and discuss a number of contemporary issues of human rights and wider rule of law concern.

The full module is avaliable at UNODC website

TopicHuman Rights , Preventing violent extremism


Themes: Human Rights , Preventing violent extremism