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Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

Please, read the general remarks about the special procedures first.

Rights and Intended Situation

The Group, composed of independent experts, will consider a certain detention to be arbitrary if the legal situation can be associated to one of the following categories:

  • It is obviously impossible to invoke any legal basis to justify the deprivation of liberty (case of keeping up the detention of a person who has served his sentence or to whom a right of amnesty is applicable) (category I);
  • The deprivation of liberty results from the execution of the rights and liberties proclaimed in the Articles 7, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20 and 21 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and, if the concerned State is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, proclaimed in the Articles 12, 18, 19, 21, 22, 25, 26, and 27 of this Covenant (category II);
  • International rules on equitable proceedings have been totally or partially disregarded in such a manner that the deprivation of liberty becomes has to be regarded as arbitrary (category III).

Implementation of the Procedure

The Group is generally called up by the inquiries submitted by the directly concerned persons, their families or representatives or NGOs operating in the field of human rights but also by governments or intergovernmental organizations.

In a next step, the group submits the inquiry to the concerned government and invites it to present within 90 days its comments and observations on the allegations, the facts and the applicable legal system and to present the progress and results of the ordered investigations.

In a third step, the claimant has the possibility to comment on the government’s response.

Finally, the Group gives its opinion and recommendations and submits them to the government. Three weeks after this notification, the opinion is also submitted to the claimant for information.

The opinions are published in an annex to the report presented to the Human Rights Council on one of its annual meetings.

It is possible to use a model questionnaire to submit an inquiry to the working group on arbitrary detention:

  • The complaint must at least contain the following information:
  • Identity of the person(s) or organization(s) submitting the inquiry;
  • Full name, age, sex and place of residence or origin of the supposed victim;
  • Indication of as many details as possible (name, age, sex and place of residence or origin) if it refers to a group or community;
  • Date and place of the incident (approximately, if the exact date is unknown)
  • Detailed description of the circumstances of the incident under which the presumed violation took place;
  • Identity of the suspect(s) (name if known, title/position, presumed motivation);
  • As the case may be, measures taken at the national level (for example, if the police had been informed, in case that other national authorities are involved, as well as a possible position of the government);
  • As the case may be, measures taken at the international level (for example, if other mechanisms have been called up)

The inquiry should be directed to the following address:

Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
c/o Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Fax: +41 22 917 90 06
E-mail: urgent-action(at)

Last change: 18.12.08 - 23:04