Political murders authorized by governments may take the form of disappearances, staged incidents, "suicides" or death caused by gang warfare. Governments often try to dismiss such events, whether by denying that they have taken place at all, by attempting to attribute them to opposition forces, or by alleging they resulted from armed confrontation with government forces, or that the victim was murdered while attempting to escape from custody. The killings are often accompanied by intimidation of witnesses and relatives of victims, and suppression of evidence. Victims may be chosen for their political beliefs or activities, religion, ethnic origin, sex, colour or language. There is occasionally a show trial to prove lack of government involvement and, given the nature of the complicity, it is virtually impossible to appeal against the verdict or otherwise hope for justice.
It was alleged in 1999 that Belgian officers were involved in the killing of Patrice Lumumba, the first prime minister of the Republic of Congo, in 1961.
In examples of political murder Amnesty International has cited the following countries: [Africa] Ghana, Guinea, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe. [America] Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay. [Asia] Afghanistan, India, Indonesia, Iran Islamic Rep, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Syrian AR.
In Colombia, for example, human rights organizations lay most of the blame on the armed forces, state intelligence agents and paramilitary groups linked to the police and military. Thus trade unionists, peasant and indigenous leaders, politicians, human rights activitists and even primary school teachers are the principal targets as groups posing an effective challenge to the status quo. In 1994 Amnesty International claimed that government authorities had been primarily responsible for more than 20,000 politically motivated deaths over the pervious 8 years.
2. These killings flout the absolute principle that governments must protect their citizens against arbitrary deprivation of life, which cannot be abandoned under any circumstances, however grave. Such killings are crimes for which governments and their agents are responsible under national and international law. Their accountability is not diminished by opposition groups committing similar abhorrent acts. Nor does the difficulty of proving who is ultimately answerable for a killing lessen the government's responsibility to investigate unlawful killings and take steps to prevent them. It is the duty of governments not to commit or condone political killings, but to take all legislative, executive and judicial measures to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.