Council holds interactive dialogue with the Working Group on arbitrary detention
Monday, 15 March 2010 12:33


On 8 and 9 March 2010, the Human Rights Council (the Council) discussed the reports of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, including on official missions to Malta and Senegal. The Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group, Mr Malick Sow, mentioned that the Working Group had contributed to the study on secret detentions, the consideration of which has been postponed to the June session. The report of the Working Group was discussed in a clustered interactive dialogue with the reports of the Working Group on enforced disappearances, and the Representative of the Secretary-General on IDPs, on which most States focused their comments.


The annual report of the Working Group focused on a range of issues, including the detention of irregular migrants, and states of emergency. Mr Sow expressed concern that in some countries migrants in irregular situations are detained automatically and mandatorily without access to any judicial monitoring or appeal process, and that no maximum detention period is foreseen. Therefore the Working Group recommended that States apply the principle of proportionality and release detained migrants when it is not possible to repatriate them. Mr Sow also made these suggestions during a panel discussion on human rights of migrants in detention centres held at the September 2009 session of the Council.


Mr Sow noted with concern that States are increasingly resorting to states of emergency to restrict the right to habeas corpus and basic rights of persons in detention. He also condemned reprisals against judges, who had ordered the release of prisoners based on the recommendations of the Working Group. During the interactive dialogue, several States including USA, EU, Sweden, and Austria expressed concern regarding reprisals against persons that had cooperated with the Working Group. 


Mr Sow recommended that the Council expand the mandate of the Working Group to also study conditions of detention and the rights of people in detention centres. Although this was the second time that the Working Group made this suggestion, States did not comment on this during the interactive dialogue.


Mexico, Pakistan (on behalf of OIC), the Philippines and Ecuador criticised the arbitrary detention of irregular migrants and asylum seekers, and urged other States to adopt migration policies based on principles of necessity and proportionality. Ecuador specifically urged other States to find alternative means to detention of irregular migrants and asylum seekers. Mr Sow replied that this question is on the Working Group’s agenda for 2010, and will be included in its plan of action for 2010-2011. The Philippines furthermore stated that extended detention of irregular migrants should be eliminated, especially for children and asked the Working Group to share some of the best practices in this area. However, Mr Sow did not address this question in his responses.



France asked how the Working Group could improve its working methods. Mr Sow assured France that a reconsideration of its working methods will be discussed during the May 2010 session of the Working Group. The results of these discussions would be submitted to the Council.


Malta and Senegal spoke as concerned countries. Malta expressed substantive disagreement with the report, claiming that the law regarding administrative detention of irregular immigrants provides that such detention can be legally challenged and that detainees are fully informed of their rights. It claimed therefore that its migration policy does not infringe human rights law. Senegal on the other hand welcomed the conclusions of the Working Group and assured the Council that it will take the recommendations into account.


The Chairperson-Rapporteur also thanked Armenia, Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, the United States, Libya, Georgia, and Malaysia for inviting the Working Group to visit. Some specific situations or cases were raised. Both the UK and the EU focused their attention on arbitrary detentions in Iran. The EU called on Iran to conduct a just, fair and open trial for seven Baha’i leaders detained. Mr Sow stated that specific recommendations had been sent to Iran and that the Working Group would be monitoring the progress closely. Cuba urged the Working Group to monitor closely the case of five Cuban activists who are in prison in the US, and claimed that the US has taken no steps to solve this issue. Mr Sow replied that the follow-up to this case is ‘underway’. Several States recorded their disagreement with the views expressed in the Working Group’s opinions contained in a separate report.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 August 2010 17:14
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