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Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

About the mandate

The Working Group has the mandate to investigate cases of deprivation of liberty imposed arbitrarily or inconsistently with the international standards set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or the international legal instruments accepted by the States concerned.

The Working Group investigates alleged cases of arbitrary detention by sending urgent appeals and communications to concerned Governments to clarify and/or bring their attention to these cases. The Working Group also considers individual complaints under its regular communications procedure, leading to the adoption of opinions as to the arbitrariness of the detention. In addition, the Working Group conducts country visits to assess the situation of deprivation of liberty in the country.

The mandate of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention was most recently extended by Human Rights Council resolution 42/22 in September 2019 for a further three-year period.

Read more about the mandate.

About the members

The Working Group is composed of five independent experts of balanced geographical representation. Together, they investigate individual cases and produce reports and opinions in order to fulfil the mandate. They meet three times a year in Geneva.

More on the members of the Working Group.

Key documents

Revised Fact Sheet No.26 on The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

Providing an overview of the questions of how to define ‘deprivation of liberty’ and when it might become ‘arbitrary’; criteria to determine this, and an outline of the procedure through which the Working Group may assist those who are arbitrarily detained.

PDF: English

Basic Principles and Guidelines on Remedies and Procedures on the Right of Anyone Deprived of His or Her Liberty by Arrest or Detention to Bring Proceedings Before Court.

Adopted in 2015, these guidelines are based on international law, standards and recognized good practice, and are intended to provide States with guidance on fulfilling their obligation to avoid the arbitrary deprivation of liberty. They concern the right of anyone deprived of his or her liberty to bring proceedings before a court in order that the court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of the detention and order the release of the individual if the detention is not lawful.

Methods of work of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

This document outlines how the Working Group functions, carries out its mandate, handles communications and urgent actions, and the procedure for country visits. It also clarifies how it works with other human rights mechanisms.

Latest reports

2020 Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention: In 2019, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, adopted 85 opinions concerning the detention of 171 persons in 42 countries. It transmitted 61 urgent appeals to 31 Governments and, in one case, to other actors, as well as 80 letters of allegations and other letters to 43 Governments and, in one case, other actors, concerning at least 377 identified individuals. This report studies the thematic issues of women deprived of liberty, the right to legal assistance in preventing arbitrary deprivation of liberty, and modern technologies and alternatives to detention. View report page | View document A/HRC/45/16

2019 Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention: In 2018, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention adopted 90 opinions concerning the detention of 246 persons in 47 countries. It transmitted 75 urgent appeals to 34 Governments concerning 117 identified individuals and 94 letters of allegations and other letters to 52 Governments. In this report it studies the thematic issues of deprivation of liberty in the context of conscientious objection to military service, use of registers to avoid arbitrary detention, use of the Working Group’s opinions in domestic proceedings, and comprehensive reparations to victims of arbitrary detention. View report page | View document A/HRC/42/39

Country visits

Mission to Greece (2 to 13 December 2019)
View document A/HRC/45/16/Add.1
Preliminary findings English | Greek

Press release English | Greek

Mission to Qatar (3 to 14 November 2019)
View document A/HRC/45/16/Add.2
Preliminary findings English | العربية

Press release English | العربية


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