ICJ welcomes adoption of Basic Principles and Guidelines on habeas corpus

The ICJ welcomes yesterday’s adoption, by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, of the Working Group’s “Basic Principles and Guidelines on Remedies and Procedures on the Right of Anyone Deprived of His or Her Liberty by Arrest or Detention to Bring Proceedings Before Court”.

Under its resolution 20/16 (2012), the UN Human Rights Council requested the Working Group to prepare draft basic principles and guidelines on habeas corpus. The Working Group set out a first draft set of principles and guidelines ahead of its global consultation on the subject in September 2014. From 2 to 5 February 2015, the Working Group met to continue its elaboration of the Basic Principles and Guidelines, resulting in the adoption of a second draft. The Working Group adopted its final iteration of the document at the conclusion of its session on 29 April 2015. The Basic Principles and Guidelines will be presented to the Human Rights Council during the Council’s 30th regular session, to be held from 14 September to 2 October 2015.

The ICJ welcomes the Basic Principles and Guidelines as a means of assisting States to enhance, in law and in practice, respect for the right to habeas corpus. It especially welcomes certain aspects of the document, including:

  • Paragraph 68, in which applicable qualifications are set out to any derogating measures to accommodate constraints on the application of some procedural elements of the right to habeas corpus;
  • Principle 6 and Guideline 4 which reaffirm that habeas corpus petitions must be heard by courts that bear all characteristics of competence, independence and impartiality (paras 27, 70 and 72(a)), that competence includes the power to order immediate release if detention is fund to be arbitrary or unlawful (para 27), that immediate implementation of such orders is required (para 71(c)) and that courts must give reasoned and particularized decisions (para 71(d));
  • Guideline 7, in which it is provided that individuals are entitled to take proceedings multiple times (paras 81 and 82), that expediency is required, including in cases of subsequent challenges, and especially in cases alleging, among other things, torture or ill-treatment (para 83) and that authorities remain obliged to ensure regular review of the continuing need for detention (para 84);
  • Principle 9 and Guideline 8 concerning legal representation and legal aid;
  • The clarifications in Principle 10 and Guideline that persons able to bring proceedings include counsel, family members or other interested parties, whether or not they have proof of the consent of the detainee (paras 34 and 92) and that no restrictions may be imposed on a detainee’s ability to contact such persons (para 35);
  • The express recognition in Guideline 12 that information obtained by torture or other forms of ill-treatment may not be used in evidence;
  • Guideline 13 concerning disclosure and limitations applicable to any non-disclosure of information on security or other grounds;
  • Guideline 14, reflecting authorities’ obligation to justify the need and proportionality of detention;
  • Principle 15 and Guideline 16 (on remedies), reflecting the overarching right to remedies and reparation (paras 43), the need for authorities to give immediate effect to an order for release (para 44) and the right to compensation, restitution, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition (paras 109-112); and
  • Principle 16 concerning the application of Article 9(4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) alongside international humanitarian law (paras 45 and 47), the application of Article 9(4) to civilians in an international armed conflict (para 47), the application of habeas principles to prisoners of war (para 48), and the question of administrative detention or internment in the context of a non-international armed conflict (para 49).

The ICJ has engaged in all stages of the Working Group’s elaboration and consultations. It made written submissions in November 2013, April 2014 and March 2015. Its staff, Matt Pollard and Alex Conte, gave panel presentations at the September 2014 global consultation.

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