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What are "Extrajudicial Killings"? - Meaning - History - Causes.

An extrajudicial killing (also known as extrajudicial execution) is the killing of a person by governmental authorities or individuals without the sanction of any judicial proceeding or legal process. Extrajudicial punishments are mostly seen by humanity to be unethical, since they bypass the due process of the legal jurisdiction in which they occur. Extrajudicial killings often target leading political, trade union, dissident, religious, and social figures and are only those carried out by the state government or other state authorities like the armed forces or police, as extra-legal fulfillment of their prescribed role.


Extrajudicial killing basically started from the very beginning of civilization. When the lust for power arose the killing began in the form of assassination. People like Julies César fell victim of extrajudicial killing. During the civil war there is a term used as ‘lynching’. Lynching is an extrajudicial execution carried out by a mob a, often by hanging, but also by burning at the stake or shooting, in order to punish a alleged transgressor, or to intimidate, control or otherwise manipulate a population of people of people, however large or small .Today lynching is defined in the united state by some code of law “any act of violence inflicted by a mob upon the body of another person which result in the death of the person”.

In Europe early example of a similar phenomenon are found in the proceedings of the vehmgerichte in medieval Germany and of Lyford Law, Gibbet Law or Halifax law in England and Cowper justice and Jeddart justice in Scotland. In Imperial Russia anti Jewish lynching’s called Pogoms occurred in the 19th-early 20th centuries.

In Britain a series of race riots broke out in several cities in 1919 between whites and black sailors. In Liverpool, after a black sailor had been stabbed by two whites in a pub, his friend attack pubbed in revenge. In response, the police raided lodging houses with black occupants, accompanied by an “enraged lynch mob’. Charles Wotton, a young black seaman who had not been involved in the attack was chased into the river Mersey and drowned after being pelted missiles thrown by the mob. The Charles Wotton College in Liverpool was named after his memory.

In 1944, Wolfgang Rosterg, a German prisoner of war known to be unsympathetic to the Nazi regime, was lynched by Nazis in Paw Camp 21 in Comrie, Scotland. After the end of war five of the perpetrators were hanged at Pentonville Prison-the largest multiple executions in 20th century Britain. There are also approximately 150 confirmed cases of surviving crew members of crashed allied aircraft being lynched by German civilians, soldiers or police man. Nazi propagandists termed “Allied terror bombing”. This was further promoted by Nazi officials through secret orders that prohibited policemen and soldiers from interfering in the favor of the enemy in conflicts between civilians and allied forces or prosecuting who engaged in such acts.


A form of extrajudicial killing called police encounters is common in India. Such encounters are being staged also by military and security forces.

"Encounter killing" is a term used in South Asia, especially India and Pakistan since the late 20th century to describe killings by the police or the armed forces, allegedly in self-defence, when they encounter suspected gangsters or terrorists. In the 1990s and the mid-2000s, the Mumbai Police used encounter killings to attack the city's underworld, and the practice spread to other large cities. In Pakistan, the Sindh Police is notorious for extrajudicial killings through fake encounters especially in Karachi.

Critics are sceptical of many of these reported incidents,and further complain that the wide acceptance of the practice has led to incidents of the police staging fake encounters to cover-up the killing of suspects when they are either in custody or are unarmed.

This term has come into popular use in India since the late 20th century because of a very high frequency of encounter killings by police in such cities as Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata. Some of the killings have been controversial, and critics have alleged that the police created 'fake encounters' as opportunities to kill suspects.

According to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India, there were many cases of alleged fake encounters:


440 cases. States with high number of cases were: Uttar Pradesh (231), Rajasthan (33), Maharashtra (31), Delhi (26), Andhra Pradesh (22) and Uttarakhand (19).

2009/10 - February 2013

555 cases. States with high number of cases were: Uttar Pradesh (138), Manipur (62), Assam (52), West Bengal (35) and Jharkhand (30).


1. Government inactiveness

One of the major causes of jungle justice, self-dispensation of criminal justice and the extra judicial killings is the inability of the government to discharge its major and primary constitutional responsibilities of securing lives and property of her people within the confine of its jurisdiction. The situation even becomes worst in the democratic dispensation. There have been reports of various high profile political killings in which the government as failed woefully to unravel the culprits. The government of Nigeria is yet to get to the root of gruesome murder of the former Attorney General of the Federation, late Chief Bola Ige, years after the nasty incident had occurred and the killers are still walking freely in the society. The candidate of the then PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) in Lagos State gubernatorial election, Mr. Funsho Williams was equally killed in the same manner and till the present moment the killers are yet to be found or better still none has been pronounced guilty for that heinous act. The spate of perceived political killings or politically motivated assassinations has been on the increase since the advent of democratic rules in Nigeria while the failure on the part of government through its state securities apparatuses to preserve lives and property has multiplier effects on the society at large.

2. Judicial Corruption

Corruption has indeed permeated the entire strata of human endeavours to the extent that the judiciary which hitherto had, always in the past considered to be the bastion of hope and indeed the last hope for the common man is not spared. Corruption in the judiciary is undoubtedly perceived as a greatest problem worldwide, it is of course a failure of acceptable moral standards, so much that people now care less about the judicial process, mob attacks and other form of lawlessness remains unabated as public brutality triumph against the due process of law.

3. The Police Ineffectiveness

The prison yards are filled with many awaiting trials in cases that cannot be proved by the so-called prosecutors due to inadequate investigation by the law enforcement agencies which have allows those that really committed the offence to move freely in the society. So many lives got lost in the hand of police without due process of law while many others were tortured to death.

4. Unemployment

The astronomic increase in the unemployment among the teeming youth in in many countries has equally led to a corresponding increase in crime rate. Devil, the popular adage says, find works for the idle. Crime rates usually increase and fall with unemployment and Nigeria is not an exception to this general principle. It is even more absurd that those that are said to be employed found it extremely difficult to earn their wages, as at present many States in Nigeria and even the Federal government are finding it difficult to pay workers salary due to economic recession and the whole environment is tensed filled up with hunger and anger.

Data sources : wikipedia ; investopedia etc.