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Arbitrary detention still used as a tool to repress critical voices

Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus have to rehabilitate all persons arbitrarily detained and to review and address systemic factors within their legal systems and State apparatus’ which underlie this human rights abuse; States need to stop using arbitrary detention as a repression tool.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012, by HRHF Geneva Office

On 6 March the Working Group on arbitrary detention presented its 2011 activities and findings to the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Working Group stressed that one of the many pressing issues is the use of evidence deriving from arbitrary detention, a practice contradicting a peremptory norm of international law. The Working Group reiterated that unjustified and prolonged pre-trial detention constitutes arbitrary deprivation of liberty. It also restated that pre-trial detention should not be the norm, and it should only be used in exceptional circumstances and for the shortest duration of time. 

The Working Group underlined that habeas corpus is today needed more than ever as it serves as a robust safeguard against arbitrary detention of political opponents, religious dissenters, members of minorities or persons exercising their freedoms of conscience, opinion, expression or religion.

Throughout its Opinions on individual cases, the Working Group has consistently requested Governments to take the necessary steps to remedy a situation of arbitrary detention in order to bring it into conformity with international human rights standards, which includes release and adequate compensation for the harm suffered.

“The use of arbitrary detention as a tool of systematic repression of critical voices in the Republic of Armenia, the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Belarus is worrying,” Florian Irminger said, Head of International Advocacy at the Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF). Arbitrary detention not only contravenes the rights concerning unlawful detention set forth by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but also blocks avenues for promoting and protecting many civil and political rights by silencing and punishing those who fight for them.

Visit to Georgia

The Working Group on arbitrary detention visited Georgia from 15 to 24 June 2011 (read the country visit report in English and in Russian).

The Working Group welcomed the many legislative reforms and positive initiatives to assist in safeguarding against the occurrences of deprivation of liberty. However, the Working Group observed various issues of concern that need to be addressed, such as the practice of ensuring independence of the judiciary and fair trial guarantees. In its report, the Working Group refers to the practice of plea-bargaining, which was introduced in 2004, and expresses major concern about its practical implementation, qualifying it as problematic. The Working Group also considers the issue of administrative offenses, noting with concern the practical implications to the increase in the maximum punishment from 60 to 90 days, including the deprivation of basic rights during prolonged administrative detention. Furthermore, the Working Group pointed out in his statement the political free speech concerns following the arrest and administrative detentions of protestors in Tbilisi last year.

Georgia sent replies to the Working Group findings (read in English).

Interactive dialogue with the Working Group on arbitrary, on 6 March 2012, at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva:

HRHF Geneva Office

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