Arbitrary detention - an introduction

Arbitrary detention is deprivation of liberty contrary to human rights provisions of the major international human rights instruments.  Specific examples of arbitrary detention are:

  • deprivation of liberty for which there is no legal basis;

  • deprivation of liberty for exercising rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Intl. Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

  • deprivation of liberty following a trial not complying with fair trial standards as set out in the Universal Declaration and other relevant instruments.

Below are select introductory materials on business and arbitrary detention.  Further reports from a wide range of sources are in the “Arbitrary detention" section of our site.

Key reports & guidance

Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

Human Rights Translated: A Business Reference Guide, OHCHR, IBLF, UN Global Compact & Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Faculty of Law, Monash University, Dec 2008 (scroll down to page 21, “Article 9: Rights to Liberty and Security of Person”).

Concerns, company responses & non-responses

Below we give examples of concerns regarding companies and arbitrary detention.  In cases where the Resource Centre has invited companies to respond to allegations of misconduct, we indicate whether the company has responded.

Argentina: Kraft faces protests from workers alleging anti-union practices, intimidation and complicity with police violence & detention, Oct 2009.  Kraft Foods response.

Argentina: Ledesma accused of complicity with detention, torture & “disappearance” of over 400 people by dictatorship’s security forces in 1976, Jul 2006.  Ledesma response. [Spanish only]

Burma: EarthRights report alleging abuses, including arbitrary arrest, detention and torture, involving Chinese, Korean, Indian oil firms, Mar 2011.  Daewoo Intl, KOGAS responses; CNPC, GAIL, MOGE and ONGC Videsh did not respond.

China: NGOs report on alleged human & labour rights abuses, including arbitrary detention, in the course of privatisation of state-owned enterprises, Sep 2008.

International: Documents in court case in USA reportedly “illustrate in minute detail” how Richmor, Sportsflight & DynCorp (owned by CSC) assisted the US Govt. with its rendition programme, Aug 2011.  Responses from CSC, DynCorp & Sportsflight; Richmor comments included in article.

USA: Developer faces allegations of a "kids for cash" scheme, alleging juveniles were locked up in youth detention facilities built by his company Mericle Construction, Dec 2011.

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Related stories and components

16 December 2011

Builder, locked-up youths reach $17 million settlement in Pa. ‘kids for cash’ lawsuit [USA]

Author: Associated Press

A developer at the center of one of the biggest judicial scandals in U.S. history has agreed to pay more than $17 million to settle a civil lawsuit filed by juveniles who were locked up in youth detention facilities built by his company. The...

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9 December 2011

Huawei Technologies to ‘Voluntarily’ Restrict Business Dealings in Iran

Author: Bloomberg

Huawei Technologies Co., China’s largest maker of phone equipment, said it will voluntarily restrict business in Iran because of the “increasingly complex situation” there... [also refers to MTN Irancell]

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31 August 2011

How US firms profited from torture flights

Author: Ian Cobain & Ben Quinn, Guardian [UK]

The scale of the CIA's rendition programme has been laid bare in court documents that illustrate…how the US contracted out the secret transportation of suspects to a network of private American companies…The…case concerns Sportsflight, an aircraft...

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7 October 2009

Kraft Firings Feed Protests [Argentina]

Author: Marie Trigona, Centre for International Policy

In August, Kraft fired 160 workers after they went on strike to demand proper health measures at the company's factory in suburban Buenos Aires during the swine flu epidemic in Argentina... almost all of the factory's union delegates were fired…Kraft...

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5 December 2008

[PDF] Human Rights Translated: A Business Reference Guide

Author: OHCHR, IBLF, UN Global Compact & Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Faculty of Law, Monash University [Australia]

Readers are guided through each of the rights contained in the UN treaties...and given a description of what each right means in general terms and how it may be relevant to a company’s activities...To bring reality to the report, each description of a...

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24 September 2008

No Way Out: A report on the human cost of China’s economic miracle

Author: China Labour Bulletin and Rights & Democracy [Canada]

[The] new report...draws extensively on CLB’s litigation in defence of worker’s rights. The report...explore[s] the many ways in which enterprise restructuring and privatization violated the human rights of laid-off workers; including their systematic...

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29 August 2006
+ Español - Hide

Author: Gonzalo Besteiro, RosarioNet [Argentina]

Hace 30 años se produjo el “Apagón de Ledesma”. Durante la noche del 27 de junio de 1976, en medio de la oscuridad, 400 personas fueron secuestradas y torturadas, con la complicidad del Ingenio azucarero. La lucha por acabar con la impunidad continúa....

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9 January 2006

Sweat Shop Fighter Jailed - Mexican defended workers making clothes for Canada, U.S. [Mexico]

Author: Sarah K. Cox, Tyee [Canada]

Martín Barrios Hernández...[was] arrested December 29... Barrios is accused of attempting to blackmail the owner of several factories that assemble clothing for export... Coincidentally, Barrios had been pursuing legal channels to obtain severance pay...

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