Extrajudicial detention

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Arbitrary or extrajudicial detention is the detention of individuals by a state, without ever laying formal charges against them.

Although it has a long history of legitimate use in wartime (see prisoner of war, Civilian Internee), detention without charge, sometimes in secret, has been one of the hallmarks of totalitarian states. Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile."

Writ of Habeas Corpus[edit]

In democracies with legal systems based on English common law, since the thirteenth century signing of the Magna Carta, captives were able to call upon the writ of habeas corpus — literally "you should have the body." This legal procedure required the state to show that there was a meaningful, legal justification for their detention.

Detention without charge by democratic countries[edit]

In recent decades some democratic countries have introduced limited mechanisms whereby individuals can be detained without being charged or convicted of a crime. See, for example, the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and the Canadian security certificate.[1][2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Frederick Zimmerman, ed. (2004). Basic documents about the treatment of the detainees at Guantánamo and Abu ... Nimble Books LLC. ISBN 978-0-9754479-0-1. Hamdi argues that he is owed a meaningful and timely hearing and that "extrajudicial detention [that] begins and ends with the submission of an affidavit based on third-hand hearsay" does not comport with the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. 
  2. ^ Karen J. Greenberg. The Least Worst Place: How Guantanamo Became the World's Most Notorious Prison. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-955767-7. In other words, the lawyers who were struggling to discover – or invent – a legal rationale for indefinite extrajudicial detention, unregulated by American or international law, had come down to see, however briefly, the flesh and blood reality that their ongoing work affected. 

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