“Commemoration of the 20th Anniversary of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention”
Paris, France, 14 November 2011

On 30 September 2010, the Human Rights Council adopted its Resolution 15/18. In this resolution, the Council, requested the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to organize a one-day event in 2011, to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the establishment of the Working Group.

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) was created by the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1991 to investigate cases of arbitrary deprivation of liberty that may be in violation of international human rights law. Its origin was rooted in the realisation that the prevalent practice of arbitrary detention with its concomitant violations of human rights, is a global phenomenon that needed to be effectively addressed by the international community. In 1985, the Commission on Human Rights discussed this issue and in 1990, requested the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities to undertake a thorough study on the matter and submit recommendations towards the reduction of arbitrary detention. In 1988, the UN General Assembly adopted the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under any Form of Detention or Imprisonment. Mr. Louis Joinet, an independent expert of the above Sub-Commission, presented a report on the practice of administrative detention which led to the adoption of resolution 1991/42, formally establishing the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. The mandate of the Working Group was further extended on 15 April 1997, through Resolution 1997/50 to include the issue of the administrative detention of migrants and asylum seekers.

The WGAD is mandated to receive and verify information from a variety of sources in order to investigate cases of detention imposed arbitrarily or otherwise inconsistently with international human rights standards.


  • Date and venue

The event will take place on 14 November 2011, at the Arab World Institute in Paris, France on 1 Rue des Fossés Saint-Bernard, Place Mohammed V 75236.

  • Panel Discussion

The event will be a roundtable discussion consisting of a morning and an afternoon panel:


Morning Session (9:00 – 12:00)
The WGAD’s history and its development in the past 20 years

Afternoon Session (14:00 – 17:00)
Lessons learned and the way forward

Each panel will be moderated by a current member of the WGAD. An interactive dialogue will take place after each panel, followed by a session on conclusions and recommendations.

Stakeholders such as Member States, national human rights institutions, international organisations, NGOs and civil society representatives (including former detainees and their families) are encouraged to participate and contribute to the interactive dialogue. Interventions should focus on the role and the work of WGAD with concrete suggestions and recommendations on good practices regarding deprivation of liberty as well as on issues presented by panellists.

Launching of the WGAD database (17:00)

A database consisting of the Working Group’s Opinions will be officially launched during the commemorative event and will be accessible through the website: www.unwgaddatabase.org

Participants interested in attending the event can still contact the Secretariat for the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on wgad@ohchr.org and provide a completed registration form by the 8 November 2011.


English | French | Spanish (PDF)

Registration form:
English (Word)