Research project

Arbitrary Detention Redress Unit

Principal Investigator
Dr Matthew Gillett
United Nations building

The Human Rights Centre Clinic is running a stand-alone project, the Arbitrary Detention Redress Unit (ADRU) in 2022/23 under the supervision of Dr Matthew Gillett, a United Nations Special Mandate holder, as an expert member of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

Arbitrary detention is a human rights violation. It is prohibited under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It can constitute a gateway to further violations, including torture, enforced disappearances, and violations of fair trial rights. Thousands of people around the world are subjected to arbitrary detention every year, including human rights defenders, journalists, and members of civil society organisations.

Over the course of the year, the ADRU team will work with Dr Matthew Gillett and other UN experts to redress cases of alleged arbitrary detention. The team will receive specialized training on key legal and human rights concepts related to protecting people from having their freedom improperly taken from them. They will learn how to review and analyze submitted complaints of arbitrary detention, assess government responses concerning allegations of human rights violations, and research novel issues regarding detention-related human rights violations. Team members will work on real cases and help prepare briefings for country visits, including inspections of detention facilities. Team members will be required to sign non-disclosure agreements covering their work in the ADRU.

Applications for 2022-2023 are closed.

Important information

Time Committment 

The clinic will run during the Autumn, Spring and Summer terms. Students will not be expected to participate during the vacations or during the examination period(s).
Members of the team will be trained by Dr. Matthew Gillett, along with guest trainers from the UN Special Procedures and related bodies. Team meetings will be held once a week during term time at a mutually agreed-upon time, either in person or online or in a hybrid format.

Participation in the ADRU will require each student to commit approximately 15 hours per term, in addition to 10 hours of contact time through meetings and seminars per term.

Student Activity 

Students will be assigned tasks in conjunction with the cases. These tasks will include:

  • receiving specialized training on key legal and human rights concepts related to arbitrary detention
  • reviewing and analyzing complaints of arbitrary detention, as well as government responses thereto
  • researching novel issues regarding detention-related human rights violations, and discussing potential approaches to these issues within the ADRU team
  • preparing briefings on countries of particular interest in relation to arbitrary detention, and briefings of thematic issues regarding arbitrary detention
  • adhering to non-disclosure obligations

Skills and experience you'll aquire

  • you will develop exceptional skills regarding the assessment and redress of human rights violations
  • you will obtain extensive knowledge of the law and key UN human rights institutions regarding arbitrary detention
  • you will form strong research and writing skills
  • you will develop the ability to analyse, process and summarize legal texts, as well as an understanding of the requirements of confidentiality
  • fluency in French would be beneficial for the project, but it is not a requirement

About the working group on Arbitrary Detention 

The Working Group was established by the then Commission on Human Rights, in its resolution 1991/42, and was most recently extended by the Human Rights Council resolution 42/22 of 2019.

The group is composed of five independent experts of balanced geographical representation: Africa; Latin America; Western European and Other States (which includes New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the USA, and Israel); Eastern Europe; and Asia. UN Special Mandate holders act with independence, impartiality, and integrity.

There are three main areas of activity. First, the Working Group investigates individual complaints of arbitrary detention. In this respect, the Working Group invites responses from the relevant governmental authorities and, based on all the information received, it issues opinions as to whether the detention is arbitrary and in violation of international human rights standards. Second, the Working Group conducts country visits to assess the situation regarding detention in particular states. Third, the Working Group carries out broader inquiries into patterns of arbitrary detention and its impact.

Lots of different national flags flying above a crowd.
Get in touch
Dr Matthew Gillett