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United States engages with Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
September 12, 2014

Agenda Item 3, Clustered Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions
As Delivered by Ambassador-at-Large Stephen Rapp
United States Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues
27th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
September 10, 2014


Thank you Madame President. The United States welcomes this opportunity to engage the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence.  We express deep appreciation for Mr. de Greiff’s reporting on prosecutorial prioritization strategies in the aftermath of gross human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law.  We also welcome the chance to engage the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.  We appreciate the Working Group’s progress on preliminary draft principles and guidelines concerning the right to challenge the lawfulness of detention before a court.

On the specifics, the United States agrees that criminal prosecutions of human rights violators and those who violate international humanitarian law play a critical role in restoring confidence in the rule of law.  The recommendations on establishing a priority in prosecutions to strengthen accountability for massive violations deserve careful consideration.  We agree that failure to develop and implement a credible prosecutorial strategy may lead to recurrence of violations.

With respect to the Working Group’s preliminary draft principles and guidelines, the United States strongly supports the right of detained persons to challenge the lawfulness of detention before a court and to obtain a judicial decision without delay.  This right is reflected in the U.S. Constitution and has historical roots dating to the Magna Carta.

As the report details, legal systems vary in how they protect the rights of detainees and provide remedies when detainee rights are violated.

With this backdrop in mind, the United States encourages the Working Group to maintain the draft’s appropriately high level of generality, rather than to attempt to articulate international obligations not accepted by all member nations.  The United States will continue to review this preliminary draft and looks forward to contributing to this important work as it continues over the next year.

We have a question for Special Rapporteur de Greiff

You argue that states should not relieve suspected perpetrators of criminal responsibility for violations of gross human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law through amnesty.  However, in the aftermath of mass atrocities where there are often thousands of perpetrators it may not be realistic to prosecute all those implicated in criminal activities.  For those whose cases are not reached because of prioritization, how would you propose ensuring accountability?

Thank you