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Human Rights Committee continues discussion on Draft General Comment on the right to liberty and security of person

22 July 2014

Human Rights Committee

22 July 2014

The Human Rights Committee today continued its second reading of the 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 looked into draft paragraph 15 in depth.  To the extent that States parties imposed security detention, the Committee considered that such detention presented severe risks of arbitrary deprivation of liberty.  When the threat to the State arose in the context of international armed conflict, those risks were mitigated by detailed substantive and procedural rules of international humanitarian law.  States parties needed to show that detention did not last longer than absolutely necessary, that the overall length of possible detention was limited, and that they fully respected the guarantees provided for by article 9 in all cases.
On draft paragraph 20, the Experts discussed the entitlement of prisoners to have the duration of their sentences administered in accordance with domestic law, including provisions concerning consideration for parole or other forms of early release.  The Committee agreed that consideration for parole or other forms of early release had to be in accordance with the law.  It was agreed that such release ought not to be denied on arbitrary grounds, within the meaning of article 9.  The Experts concurred that a prediction of the prisoner’s future behaviour might be a relevant factor in deciding whether to grant early release.
Discussing draft paragraph 21, the Committee raised the issue of a criminal sentence including a punitive period followed by a preventive period.  They agreed that in order to avoid arbitrariness, the preventive detention had to be justified by compelling reasons, and regular periodic reviews by an independent body had to be assured to determine the continued justification of the detention.  The Experts decided to revisit the paragraph during the following meeting.  No one should be deprived of liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedures as were established by law.  Substantive grounds for arrest had to be fully enumerated by law and not left open-ended.
The Committee also discussed procedures for carrying out legally authorized deprivation of liberty, which should also be established by law, while States parties were expected to ensure compliance with their legally prescribed procedures.  Domestic rules providing important safeguards for detained persons had to be complied with. 
Moving on to the notice of reasons for arrest and any criminal charges, Gerald Neuman, Committee member, said that persons deprived of liberty ought to be informed of the reasons for the arrest and also promptly informed of any charges against them, which was accepted by the Experts.  A  major purpose of requiring that all arrested persons be informed of the reasons for their arrest was to enable them to seek release if they believed that the reasons given were invalid or unfounded.
The Committee provisionally adopted paragraph 15, with two amendments, as well as paragraphs 20, 22, 23, 24 and 25 of the draft General Comment 9.
The next public meeting of the Committee will be on Thursday, 24 July at 10 a.m., when it will continue discussions on the draft General Comment 9.

For use of the information media; not an official record