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Use of officially recognized places of detention and the maintenance of effective custody records

The Human Rights Committee has stated that ‘to guarantee the effective protection of detained persons, provisions should be made for detainees to be held in places officially recognised as places of detention and for their names and places of detention, as well as for the names of persons responsible for their detention, to be kept in registers readily available and accessible to those concerned, including relatives and friends.’[1] The European Court of Human Rights has stated that the unacknowledged detention of an individual is a ‘complete negation’ of the guarantees contained in the European Convention against arbitrary deprivations of the right to liberty and security of the person.[2]

The CPT recommends that there should be a complete custody record for each detainee which should record “all aspects of custody and action taken regarding them (when deprived of liberty and reasons for that measure; when told of rights; signs of injuries, mental illness, etc; when next of kin/consulate and lawyer contacted and when visited by them; when offered food; when interrogated; when transferred or released, etc). Further, the detainee’s lawyers should have access to such a custody record.”[3]

The UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment state that the authorities must keep and maintain up-to-date official registers of all detainees, both at each place of detention and centrally.[4] The information in such registers must be made available to courts and other competent authorities, the detainee, or his or her family.[5] Further to this, these principles state that “in order to supervise the strict observance of relevant laws and regulations, places of detention shall be visited regularly by qualified and experienced persons appointed by, and responsible to, a competent authority distinct from the authority directly in charge of the administration of the place of detention or imprisonment. A detained or imprisoned person shall have the right to communicate freely and in full confidentiality with the persons who visit the places of detention or imprisonment . . . subject to reasonable conditions to ensure security and good order in such places.”[6]


[1] Human Rights Committee, General Comment 20, Article 7 (Forty-fourth session, 1992), Compilation of General Comments and General Recommendations Adopted by Human Rights Treaty Bodies, U.N. Doc. HRI/GEN/1/Rev.1. at 30 (1994), para. 11.

[2] Çakici v Turkey, ECtHR, Judgment 8 July 1999, para. 104.

[3] CPT/Inf/E (2002) 1, p.7, para. 40

[4] Principle 12.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Principle 29.