ASIA: Functioning justice institutions to be built to form the first line of defence against arbitrary detention

An Oral Statement to the 36th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre

Mr. Vice President,

The ALRC is deeply concerned about the widespread and consistent practice of arbitrary detention that is resorted to by the Asian states to stifle free opinion and political dissent.

In Bangladesh for instance, a large number of persons are held arbitrarily in prisons and secret detention centres, without trial or even formal charge, for they are either identified as persons in opposition to the draconian policies of the incumbent government or are those who have dared to speak up against the questionable policies of the government.

In Indonesia, any person arrested by the police could be detained up to 90 days without being produced before a judicial officer. In Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka judicial remedies against arbitrary detention is often an extremely uphill task, since arrests are often not recorded by the state agencies for long periods of time. In Pakistan, those who are arbitrarily detained also run the risk of disappearance.

Basic guarantees of fair trial: that is to be informed about the ground for arrest, to be detained only if a person is suspected of having committed a crime, to be informed about the place of detention, not only to the detainee but also to a close friend or relative, to be provided with professional legal assistance during detention, to be produced before a judicial officer within 24 hours of arrest and to be free from torture whilst detained are all negated by Asian governments. Above all these, courts in Asia, particularly those in India take enormous periods of time – often more than the period of punishment prescribed for a crime – to decide bail applications.

The ALRC therefore urges the Council and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to thoroughly examine the actual practices of the criminal justice institutions of Asia, and suggest institutional and legislative reforms, rather than generically requesting Asian states to comply with international human rights norms.

Thank you, Mr. Vice President.

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