Members of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

The Working Group is composed of five independent experts appointed by the Human Rights Council. All members serve in their personal capacities. A mandate-holder’s tenure is limited to a maximum of six years.

The Working Group holds three sessions per year, usually in April, August and November, each lasting between five to ten working days. At the end of its April session every year, the members of the Working Group elect their Bureau, comprised of the Chair-Rapporteur, Vice Chair on Communications and Vice Chair on Follow up.

Since 2017, the Working Group also appoints a focal point on reprisals from among its members. The working languages of the Working Group are English, French and Spanish.

Current members

Ms. Elina Steinerte (Latvia), appointed in 2016

Ms. Elina Steinerte Ms. Elina Steinerte (Chair-Rapporteur)  has a Ph.D. from Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen and has taught public international and human rights law at numerous universities in Latvia, the United Kingdom and the Bailiwick of Jersey. The prime focus of her work and research, through the University of Bristol Human Rights Centre, has been the implementation of the United Nations Convention against Torture and its Optional Protocol (OPCAT). She has worked worldwide with respect to the implementation of the Convention including advising upon the calibration of domestic legislation and the designation and effectiveness of National Preventive Mechanisms. Additionally, she has provided expert advice on a variety of criminal justice reforms concerning pre-trial detention, overuse of imprisonment, overcrowding and independent oversight over the places of deprivation of liberty. Recently she has been working with the UNHCR on streamlining its methodology for monitoring immigration detention. Until 2016 she was an expert member of the inaugural Council of Independent Experts on International and European Law to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia. Ms. Steinerte became a member of the Working Group on 1 November 2016.

Dr. Miriam Estrada-Castillo (Ecuador), appointed in 2020

Mrs. Miriam Estrada Dr. Miriam Estrada-Castillo (Vice-Chair on Communications)  is a Professor of International Law, International Criminal Law and Human Rights and the Director of the UNESCO Chair at Casa Grande University, of Guayaquil, Ecuador. She is also a Visiting Professor at Bards College (NY/Palestine). 

Professor Estrada worked for the United Nations Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) and as an International Prosecutor at Timor-Leste being part of the first 100 Brahimi Civilian Experts deployed in a Peacekeeping Mission by the UN. She is a former Vice chairperson of the Committee for the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and member of the group which drafted the CEDAW Optional Protocol.

Dr Estrada was the Latin America Regional Adviser on Gender, Human Rights and Culture of Peace for UNESCO. 

She has been Visiting Professor, and International Leading Expert on Human Rights at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (RWI). Professor in Residence at the UN University for Peace and at the Australian National University. Former Minister of Social Affairs and a Former President of the National Court for Minors in Ecuador. She is the author of the Children’s and Family Law of her country and is known as the founder of the Human Rights Education on Ecuador. She has written profusely about Human Rights, Gender and Civil and Political Rights.   

Ms. Leigh Toomey (Australia), appointed in 2015

Ms. Leigh Toomey Ms. Leigh Toomey holds an LL.M. from Yale University where she studied human rights law as a Fulbright scholar. She provides expert advice in the design, implementation and evaluation of human rights and development projects, particularly monitoring of places of detention, improving access to justice, supporting national human rights institutions, and building the capacity of police, prosecutors, judges, lawyers and corrections officers. Her experience includes extensive field-based work in developing, conflict and post-conflict settings worldwide for UN agencies, NGOs, academic institutions and development organisations. Ms. Toomey has taught human rights and criminal justice reform at Queensland University of Technology and for the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. She is qualified as a Solicitor in England and Wales and a Barrister in Australia. Ms. Toomey was appointed to the Working Group on 1 August 2015. Since April 2016, she has served as Vice-Chair on Follow-Up, including initiating a new follow-up procedure from August 2016 in Working Group opinions, and strengthening the referral mechanism to share findings in opinions with other relevant Special Procedures mandate holders.

Mr. Mumba Malila (Zambia), appointed in 2020

Mr. Mumba Malila Mr. Mumba Malila holds a Doctor of Laws degree (LLD) in Human Rights from the University of Pretoria and LLM degrees from Cambridge and Cumbria universities. He is presently a judge of the Supreme Court in Zambia. He previously taught law at the University of Zambia. He was once Chairperson of the Zambian Human Rights Commission during which time he among other things undertook country-wide visitation of prisons and other places of detention in Zambia and engaged authorities to improve conditions of detention. He later served twice as Attorney General of Zambia. He also served as a Member and subsequently as Vice Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. He was Special Rapporteur on Prisons and Conditions of Detention in Africa for four years. He took up membership of the Working Group on 1 November 2020.

Ms. Priya Gopalan (Malaysia), appointed in 2021

Ms. Priya Gopalan Ms. Priya Gopalan is a Malaysian lawyer specialising in international criminal law, human rights law, and gender. Her expertise is in international criminal prosecutions, strategic litigation, advocacy and human rights investigations in conflict and post-conflict settings, as well as other transitional justice processes. Her work has included operationalising reparations for survivors of sexual violence, developing technical guidance and policy on issues such as access to justice and, best practices for working with survivors of grave crimes. Her experiences cover Kosovo, Bosnia, Croatia, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Moldova, Sri Lanka, Syria, and The Gambia. She provides expert advice to international and national bodies, UN agencies, states, and civil society organisations.

Ms Gopalan has held a variety of positions in the field of transitional justice and accountability. She was a prosecutor and appeals counsel at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, where she played a leading role in cases that developed progressive legal precedents on conflict-related sexual violence. Ms Gopalan served as the first Legal Advisor for sexual and gender-based crimes at the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic (the IIIM Syria). She has held several roles in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), including Gender Advisor for the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka. Ms Gopalan also served as Senior Advisor to the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission of The Gambia.

Ms Gopalan qualified as a solicitor in England and Wales in 2002. She holds a LL.M in Public International Law (Distinction) from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a B.A. Jurisprudence (Hons) from the University of Oxford, where she was a UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office Chevening Scholar from Malaysia.

Former members

Mr. Seong-Phil Hong (Republic of Korea),2014-2021
Mr. Sètondji Roland Adjovi (Benin), 2014-2020
Mr. José Guevara Bermúdez (Mexico), 2014-2020
Mr. Vladimir Tochilovsky (Ukraine), 2010-2016
Mr. Mads Andenas (Norway), 2009-2015
Ms. Shaheen Sardar Ali (Pakistan), 2008-2014
Mr. El Hadji Malick Sow (Senegal), 2008-2014
Mr. Aslan Abashidze (Georgia), 2008-2010
Ms. Manuela Carmena Castrillo (Spain), 2004-2009
Mr. Seyyed Mohammad Hashemi (Islamic Republic of Iran), 2002-2008
Ms. Soledad Villagra de Biedermann (Paraguay), 2002-2008
Ms. Leïla Zerrougui (Algeria), 2001-2008
Mr. Tamás Bán (Hungary), 2001-2008
Mr. Roberto Garretón (Chile), 1992-2002 and 2008-2014
Mr. Louis Joinet (France), 1992-2003
Mr. Laity Kama (Senegal), 1992-2001
Mr. Kapil Sibal (India), 1992-2001
Mr. Petr Uhl (Czech Republic), 1992-2001