Thomas Probert


MA M.Phil. Ph.D. (Cantab)

Home Department: Centre for Human Rights

Thomas Probert is the Head of Research of the new international collaboration “Freedom from Violence”, initially housed at ICLA, which is an initiative to establish a research network that brings together researchers from across the African continent focussing on evidence-based and human-rights based approaches to the problem of violence.

He acted as a Research Consultant to the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions from 2013 – 2016, based from 2015-6 in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva. He still works closely with OHCHR, particularly in supporting its work under the Addis Ababa Roadmap, which guides collaboration with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

He is also a Research Associate of the Centre of Governance and Human Rights at the University of Cambridge.

Areas of interest: Politics of human rights (in global and regional settings), accountability, the death penalty, trends in interpersonal violence, evidence-based policy-making with respect to violence, the history of human rights


Published during the last five years

Chapters in books
  • ‘The accessibility of policing in informal settlements around Lilongwe, Malawi’ in Simon Howell (ed.) Policing the Urban Periphery in Africa: Developing Safety for the Marginal (African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum, 2019) [with Dennis Chipao]
  • ‘The right to life and the progressive abolition of the death penalty’ De Guzman, M et al (eds.) Arcs of Global Justice: Essays in Honour of William A. Schabas (OUP, 2017) (with Christof Heyns and Tess Borden)
  • ‘The role of the UN Human Rights Council Special Procedures in protecting the right to life in armed conflicts’ in Dan Kuwali & Frans Viljoen (eds.) By all means necessary: Protecting civilians and preventing mass atrocities in Africa (PULP, 2017)
  • ‘Casting fresh light on the supreme right: The African Commission’s General Comment 3 on the right to life’ Dire Tladi et al. (eds) The Pursuit of a Brave New World in International Law: Essays in Honour of John Dugard (Brill, 2017) [with Christof Heyns]
  • ‘Special Procedures in the Digital Age’ in A. Nolan, R. Freedman and T. Murphy, The United Nations Special Procedures System (Brill, 2017) [with Ella McPherson]
  • ‘The right to life and the progressive abolition of the death penalty’ in Moving Away from the Death Penalty: Argument, Trends and Perspectives (New York: United Nations, 2015) [with Christof Heyns]
  • ‘Investigating Potentially Unlawful Death under International Law: The 2016 Minnesota Protocol’ The International Lawyer vol.52 no.1 (2019) pp.47-80 [with Christof Heyns, Stuart Maslen, Toby Fisher, Sarah Knuckey & Morris Tidbal-Binz]
Policy Briefs/Research Reports
  • ‘Police attitudes and crowd management in Africa: Exploring the impact of soft-law instruments and training in Malawi’ African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum / Danish Institute for Human Rights (August 2018)
  • ‘Vehicles for accountability or cloaks of impunity? How can national commissions of inquiry achieve accountability for violations of the right to life?’ Institute for Justice & Reconciliation Policy Brief No.25 (May 2017)
  • Unlawful Killings in Africa (University of Cambridge: Centre of Governance and Human Rights, 2014) [editor]
  • ‘Implementation of the Guidelines for the Policing of Assemblies by Law Enforcement Officials in Africa: Practical challenges’ Police and Human Rights in Africa Newsletter No.11 (April 2018)
  • ‘Securing the Right to Life: A cornerstone of the human rights system’ EJILTalk (11 May 2016) [with Christof Heyns]
  • ‘The New African Commission General Comment on the Right to Life is an Important Step Forward’ Just Security (17 December 2015)
  • ‘The power of information communication technologies for human rights’ Human Rights Monitor (7 July 2015) [with Christof Heyns]
  • ‘Violence: An issue for public health’ Vision (Autumn 2014) pp.15-18.
  • ‘How the death penalty is slowly weakening its grip on Africa’ African Arguments (9 October 2014)

 Doctoral students co-supervised

  • Dennis Chipao (Malawi) is doing an analysis of how the Malawi Police Service can take advantage of new technologies to monitor and improve the effectiveness and accountability of “manual” policing  

  • Dumisani Gandhi (Zimbabwe) is exploring the relationship between new technologies and more effective or accountable policing, with a critique of deterministic optimism projected from a northern evidence-base 

  • Anne Ireri (Kenya) is investigating the Kenyan Police Service in terms of their capacity for forensic investigation 

  • Ben Christopher Nyabira (Kenya) investigates the levels of violence in Kenya and the institutional arrangements for the collection of such data at national level. (co-supervised by Thomas Probert)

  • Lily Oyakhirome (Nigeria) is working on citizen-led accountability processes concerning police abuses in Nigeria

[last updated 7 July 2019]