The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has highlighted the practice of arbitrary detention, which it emphasizes takes place in all countries, affecting thousands of people each year.
At an event in Paris marking the 20th anniversary of the Working Group, three personalities from Ethiopia, Myanmar and Syria who had been arbitrarily deprived of their freedom for exercising their human rights spoke about their experiences. Haithem Al-Maleh, a former judge and Syrian human rights defender, has been imprisoned several times for his criticism of the human rights situation in the country. Birtukan Mideksa, a former judge and leader of a political party in Ethiopia, was sentenced to life imprisonment prior to her release. Aung San Suu Kyi also addressed the event via a video message.
The Working Group’s official Opinions on their cases and more than 600 others are now available in a public online database, launched on 14 November.
Over the last 20 years, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has developed extensive jurisprudence relating to international human rights norms and standards applicable to different forms of deprivation of liberty. The database, which has been made available online with the assistance of Thomson Reuters and Freedom Now, will ultimately contain all publicly available documents adopted by the Working Group, including its country visit reports and annual reports which also refer to mandate related thematic issues. These will be available in English, French and Spanish.
“The database is an indispensable tool for the victims, legal practitioners, States, national human rights institutions, academics and civil society,” said El Hadji Malick Sow, who currently heads the expert panel.