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Human Rights Committee discusses the right to liberty and security of person

24 October 2013

The Human Rights Committee this afternoon discussed its first reading of a draft General Comment on Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, on the right of everybody to liberty and security of person.

The Committee focused on clarifying language dealing with the definition of “arrest”, meaning the initiation of any deprivation of liberty, in paragraph 14. Committee Experts considered the need for detainees to be physically present during a hearing and their entitlement to legal assistance by a counsel of choice during deliberations on the necessity of the detention, in paragraph 35. The decisions made by judges to either keep persons in detention, but not return them to police custody, or to have them released, in paragraph 37 was also discussed.

The Committee then discussed, and provisionally adopted, paragraphs 39 to 44 of the draft General Comment, which covered a wide range of issues, including the detention in custody of persons awaiting trial being the exception rather than the rule; excluding the necessity of automatic pre-trial detention for certain crimes; the right to take proceedings for release from unlawful or arbitrary detention; the scope of the legal principle of habeas corpus; the definition of “unlawful” detention as detention that violated domestic law or was incompatible with the Covenant; and the existence of remedies for unlawful private detention. Experts exchanged views on what would constitute an appropriate or a substantial waiting period before a detainee could bring a first challenge to detention.

The Human Rights Committee publishes its interpretation of the content of human rights provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in the form of General Comments on thematic issues. To date, it has issued 34 General Comments. The draft General Comment on the right of everyone to liberty and security of person was first presented by Committee Rapporteur Gerald Neuman on 21 March.

The Committee will resume its discussion on the draft General Comment on Tuesday, 29 October, at 10 a.m. The Human Rights Committee will next meet in public on Friday, 25 October, at 10 a.m. to hear the presentation of the progress report of the Special Rapporteur for follow-up views and to discuss its methods of work.

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For use of the information media; not an official record