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Arbitrary arrest and arbitrary detention are the arrest or detention of an individual in a case in which there is no likelihood or evidence that they committed a crime against legal statute, or in which there has been no proper due process of law.[1]


Arbitrarily arresting or detaining persons contradicts rule of law established in democracies as well as habeas corpus and is thereafter illegal in those regimes. In practice in the 2000s (decade), arbitrary arrest or detention (the definitions of these terms vary between different national jurisdictions) is typically tolerated by the legal system for a short duration, of a few hours up to a few days, in most democracies, especially in response to political street demonstrations. It is often a characteristic of dictatorships or police states, which may also engage in forced disappearance.[citation needed]

Virtually all individuals who are arbitrarily arrested are given absolutely no explanation as to why they are being arrested, and they are not shown any arrest warrant.[2] Depending on the social context, many or the vast majority of arbitrarily arrested individuals may be held (people also get abused while in jail) incommunicado and their whereabouts can be concealed from their family, associates, the public population and open trial courts.[3][4] Many individuals who are arbitrarily arrested and detained suffer physical or psychological torture during interrogation, as well as extrajudicial punishment and other abuses in the hands of those detaining them.[citation needed]

International law[edit]

Arbitrarily depriving an individual of their liberty is strictly prohibited by the United Nations' division for human rights. Article 9 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights decrees that "no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile";[5] that is, no individual, regardless of circumstances, is to be deprived of their liberty or exiled from their country without having first committed an actual criminal offense against a legal statute, and the government cannot deprive an individual of their liberty without proper due process of law. As well, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights specifies the protection from arbitrary arrest and detention by the Article 9.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Freedom from Arbitrary Arrest and Exile". Human Rights Law. United Nations Cyber Schoolbus. 2006-11-09. Retrieved 2007-09-30. 
  2. ^ "Human Rights Violations by the Indonesian Armed Forces". Human Rights. Human Rights Watch. 1998-06-27. Retrieved 2007-09-30. 
  3. ^ "Arbitrary arrest / Incommunicado detention / Risks of ill-treatment - SYR 003 / 0506 / OBS 060". Human Rights. International Federation for Human Rights. 2006-05-15. Retrieved 2007-09-30. 
  4. ^ "Enforced Disappearance and Incommunicado Detention in China". Human Rights. World Organisation Against Torture. 2007-08-31. Retrieved 2007-09-30. 
  5. ^ "Universal Declaration of Human Rights". Human Rights. United Nations. 1998-12-01. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-30. 
  6. ^ International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 9

UNs Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

External links[edit]

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