Is detention torture? The UN Expert on Torture says it certainly could be in his thematic report to the Human Rights Council


During the presentation of his thematic report to the UN Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur on Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Mr. Nils Melzer, warned States that the systematic and open-ended detention of people based only on their migratory status can amount to torture, especially when it is intentionally used to deter, intimidate or punish migrants or their families, or to coerce people into withdrawing asylum requests, accepting voluntary repatriation, giving information or providing fingerprints.


“The longer a situation of arbitrary detention lasts, the more intense the mental and emotional suffering will become, and the higher the likelihood that the ban on torture or ill-treatment has been breached,” the Special Rapporteur clarified.


Through his report, the UN Special Rapporteur recommends that States urgently address the migration governance when it has been based on the criminalisation of irregular migration.  The report found that the majority of States are criminalising irregular migration, and subsequently using immigration detention as a routine – or even mandatory – response.


Along these lines, the Special Reporter urges States to refrain from policies of mandatory, prolonged or indefinite detention and strongly highlights that migrants, especially children, should never be detained solely because of their irregular migration status or the impossibility of their expulsion.


According to Mr Melzer’s report, criminal or administrative detention based solely on migration status exceeds the legitimate interest that States have to protect their territory and should be regarded as arbitrary, sometimes even amounting to ill-treatment or torture.


Read the advance unedited version of the report here