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Experts meeting on security detention report

30-09-2007 Report

The ICRC and the Frederick K.Cox International Law Center at Case Western Reserve University convened an experts meeting in September 2007 devoted to legal and practical issues associated with security detention. This report summarizes the presentations and discussions of the participants at the meeting.


Executive summary 

The meeting participants, who included experts from governments, NGOs, academia, and the ICRC participating in their personal capacity, were invited to reflect on the current state of the law governing security detention, to identify impediments to better protection of procedural rights in practice, and to brainstorm about issues that required further examination. Discussions at the meeting took place in three consecutive panels.

 Security detention - the international legal framework  


The first panel was devoted to an examination of existing international standards as a means of framing the debate. The experts heard presentations on international human rights law (HRL) and international humanitarian law (IHL) rules relevant to security detention, as well as a presentation on the convergence and divergence of HRL and IHL as applied to this type of detention. The discussion centered, among other things, on the fate of detainees currently held in Guantanamo Bay, on the permissibility of detention for intelligence gathering purposes, and on the applicability of international human rights law.

 Security detention in practice  


The second panel heard three expert presentations summarizing security detentio n systems in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Israel. The presentations revealed a variety of approaches in security detention procedures, with widely varying rules on a range of practical issues, including access to and types of counsel, as well as judicial review. A brief overview of Canadian security detention laws was also provided in the discussion, which subsequently centered on the viability and implications of establishing a separate regime of national security courts in the U.S. to administer security detention. The experts highlighted the role of counsel and the judiciary in security detention proceedings, as well as the issue of evidentiary standards as requiring further examination.


 The way forward  


In the third and final panel, the participants opined on several topics, including: the permissibility of administrative detention, the viability of criminal prosecutions in the U.S., the parameters of security detention, the use of classified information and special advocates, and safeguards against indefinite detention. The meeting concluded with a discussion focusing on possible next steps in the debate on security detention, which demonstrated a wide variety of views.

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