A/HRC/42/39/Add.1: Visit to Bhutan - Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
31 July 2019
At the invitation of the Government, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention visited Bhutan from 14 to 24 January 2019. The Working Group commends the progress made by Bhutan in relation to the deprivation of liberty since its visits in 1994 and 1996, including the regular observance of the requirement to present an individual before a judge within the 24-hour time limit, the use of open-air prisons, the growth of civil society and the legal profession, improvements with regard to juvenile justice, expeditious trials and the consistent use of custody registers. At the same time, the Working Group identifies important challenges in the criminal justice system with regard to preventing arbitrary detention, such as the existence of non-bailable offences, the absence of dedicated pretrial detention facilities for adults, the detention of juveniles in police stations, a lack of attention to the needs of female detainees, failures in guaranteeing legal representation, a low level of legal literacy and awareness, the practice of deprivation of liberty due to debt and the fact that the time persons are held in police stations – the only facilities for holding pretrial detainees in Bhutan – is not counted towards the remission of sentences. The Working Group also identifies issues of concern in the context of drug-related detention, including a lack of judicial control of drug testing, an arbitrary distinction between individuals eligible for rehabilitation and those who will be detained and the impossibility of challenging the findings of the treatment assessment panel that makes such decisions. Among its recommendations to address issues identified during the visit, the Working Group encourages Bhutan to become a party to the major human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and to adopt legislative amendments and specific practices that offer greater protection against arbitrary detention.