Thousands of people every year are illegally detained in countries around the world. While the right to liberty of person is not an absolute right, deprivation of liberty may never be arbitrary, and must be carried out with respect for the rule of law. Detainees retain all of their human rights and fundamental freedoms, except for those lawful limitations caused by incarceration. Arbitrary detention increases the risk of further violations, including torture or other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; involuntary and enforced disappearance; and extrajudicial execution.
The UN Human Rights Office works to safeguard the right to liberty of person by advocating against arbitrary detention, and promoting the right of all persons deprived of their liberty to be treated with humanity and dignity. In our reports, we examine these issues and propose recommendations to protect and promote the rights of those in detention.
In addition, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (part of Special Procedures) is the only non-treaty-based UN mechanism with the power to investigate specific complaints and appeals for urgent action. The Office collaborates with the Working Group to bring attention to the issue of arbitrary detention, with the goal of ending the practice.
The five experts in the Working Group meet to examine cases and communications from victims and their human rights defenders, to determine whether an individual has been detained arbitrarily or not. These opinions and recommendations mobilize civil society organizations and initiate events which have subsequently led to the release of individuals who have been arbitrarily detained.