Arrest and Detention (Module 10, UNODC University Module series: Counter-Terrorism)

The series of Modules on Counter-Terrorism Education, developed within the Education for Justice (E4J) initiative, aim to provide a relevant and valuable resource for lecturers teaching courses on counter-terrorism in universities and academic institutions across the world. The Modules seek to enhance students’ understanding of terrorism, its implications and related issues by providing foundational knowledge on relevant international, regional and national instruments and approaches. To increase their effectiveness, the Modules aim to connect theory to practice, encourage critical thinking, and use innovative interactive teaching approaches such as experiential learning, case studies and group-based work. The Modules are multi-disciplinary and can be integrated in a series of courses ranging from law to international relations, sociology, anthropology, criminology and many other disciplines. Whilst the primary focus is on the United Nations instruments, the Modules leave room for diverse perspectives and lecturers can easily adapt them to different local and cultural contexts.


Module 10. Arrest and Detention

Detention, of one form or another, often forms a central element of States’ criminal justice responses to terrorism. Imprisonment is by far the most frequent sanction for persons found guilty of terrorism offences. Detention prior to conviction may also be used to prevent a suspect facing trial from absconding, intimidating witnesses or otherwise tampering with the evidence. In some circumstances, detention may also be used outside the context of the criminal justice process, as a security measure including in a counter-terrorism setting, to protect the public or national security by controlling or limiting an individual’s movements. It may further be used to secure the presence of a person subject to extradition proceedings.

Although the use of detention in such circumstances will often be lawful, there is always a risk of misuse of the power to detain, with significant ensuing consequences for those individuals affected. These can range from making a detainee more vulnerable to acts of torture or other forms of ill-treatment, including extraordinary rendition, examined in Module 9, to denying them the fundamental right to a fair trial discussed in Module 11. The key objective of this Module is to identify and examine the relevant legal frameworks applicable during both peacetime and armed conflict settings, together with some of the most significant contemporary issues giving grounds for concern.

Learning outcomes

Consider and understand the primary international and regional legal frameworks governing arrest and detention issues applicable in both peacetime and armed conflict situations.

Consider and understand some of the linkages between arrest and detention issues and other important human rights protections.

Identify and examine some of the most significant contemporary related issues that have arisen through the counter-terrorism laws, policies and practices of States.


The full module is avaliable at UNODC website

TopicOrganized crime, Penitentiary Institutions, Human Rights , Law enforcement