Indefinite detention

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Concept.png Indefinite detention Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
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Indefinite detention is the incarceration by a national government or law enforcement agency without a trial. It is increasingly being used as a way of handling dissent, both of the incarcerated people but also (because of the chilling affect) on the wider population.

Indefinite detention breaches a multitude of national and international laws, including human rights laws.[1] In recent years, national governments have begun removing legal obstacles to indefinite detention, often beginning first with low status minorities such as immigrants or alleged terrorists.

Official narrative

Wikipedia terms the practice "controversial".[When?]

Selected Examples


In 1994, indefinite detention was introduced to Australia, removing an earlier 273 day limit on Vietnamese, Chinese, and Cambodian refugees. Previous laws had also allowed for the indefinite detention of specified people.[2] In 2004, Australia's high court ruled in the case Al-Kateb v Godwin that the indefinite detention of a stateless person is lawful. All states and territories (except New South Wales) allow for indefinite detention of violent or sexual offenders who are considered unacceptably likely to reoffend.[2]


In 1978, Canada legalised indefinite detention without trial for immigrants, unless they agreed to be deported to a nation state where they


The Internal Security Act an act enforced since 1960 is a preventive detention law enforced in Malaysia which allows indefinite detention without trial for 2 years and further extension as needed.


In Singapore, the Internal Security Act allows the government to arrest and indefinitely detain individuals whom the government deems pose a threat to "national security".[3]


In Switzerland, local laws related to 'dangerousness' can be evoked to incarcerate persons without charge. The highest profile case was Egyptian refugee Mohamed El Ghanem, who was indefinitely detained after refusing to work as an informant for Swiss police.

United Kingdom

In 2004, the House of Lords ruled that indefinite detention violates the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights.[1] In fact, within the three provisions of the Magna Carta which are still in effect, indefinite detention is forbidden. However, in 2006 the government passed a law allowing for indefinite detention, and immigrants have been are being detained indefinitely for years as a result.[4] In 2013 Harry Ferguson protested MI6's support for detention without trial.[5] In 2014, the UK reportedly had the most secret trial since WW2.

United States

Regarding U.S. Citizens accused of supporting "terrorism", senator Lindsey Graham has stated before the senate, "When they say, ‘I want my lawyer,’ you tell them: ‘Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer. You are an enemy combatant, and we are going to talk to you about why you joined Al Qaeda.’"

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, 2011[6]

In the United States, indefinite detention has been publicly admitted as regards so-called "terror suspects".[7] According to the American Civil Liberties Union, section 412 of the USA PATRIOT act permits indefinite detention of immigrants;[8] one of the most highly publicized cases has been that of Jose Padilla,[9] whose ultimate prosecution and conviction in the United States have also been highly controversial.[10] The International Red Cross has criticized the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.[11]

On December 5, 2008, the United States Supreme Court claimed that it would rule on the legality of indefinite detention.[12] On November 29, 2011, the United States Senate rejected a proposed amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 ("NDAA") that would have banned indefinite detention by the United States government of its own citizens.[6][13][14] Congress and Senate approved the National Defense Authorization Act in December 2011 and President Barack Obama signed it December 31, 2011.[15] The new indefinite detention provision of the law was decried as a "historic assault on American liberty."[16] The American Civil Liberties Union stated that "President Obama's action today is a blight on his legacy because he will forever be known as the president who signed indefinite detention without charge or trial into law."[17] On May 16, 2012, in response to a lawsuit filed by journalist Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Wolf and others,[18] United States District Judge Katherine B. Forrest ruled the indefinite detention section of the law (1021) likely violates the 1st and 5th Amendments and issued a preliminary injunction preventing the US government from enforcing it.[19][20][21][22][23] However, in 2014, the US Supreme Court effectively allowed indefinite detention by declaring that the 2012 NDAA act was not unconsitutional.


Indefinite detention victims on Wikispooks

Shaker AamerThe last UK national to be released from Guantanamo Bay, where he was held for 13 years and subjected to torture after refusing to spy for MI5.
Emad Abdalla HassanA person who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, sold to US for $5000 and has been subject to illegal imprisonment and torture in Guantanamo Bay for years. Cleared for release in 2010, he was transferred to Oman on June 13, 2015.
Khalid Sheikh MohammedOfficially, due to be tried in 2021
Yunis Abdurrahman ShokuriHeld in extrajudicial detention in the United States Guantanamo Bay concentration camp
Aafia SiddiquiAmerican-educated Pakistani cognitive neuroscientist, tortured and raped for years by US forces, now serving a life sentence after a trial of a highly questionable nature.
Abu ZubaydahA prisoner of the deep state, subjected to torture, denied legal process, still in detention for over 20 years.
Khaled al-Maqtari
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  1. a b
  2. a b
  6. a b Savage, Charlie, "Senate Declines to Clarify Rights of American Qaeda Suspects Arrested in U.S.," The New York Times, 1 December 2011:[1].
  10. Jose Padilla Convicted-The Expanding U.S. Machinery of Repression: ?Thought Crimes,? Preventive Detention, and Torture
  13. Khaki, Ategah, "Senate Rejects Amendment Banning Indefinite Detention," ACLU Blog of Rights, 29 November 2011: [2].
  14. Carter, Tom "US Senators back law authorizing indefinite military detention without trial or charge," World Socialist Web Site, 2 December 2011: [3].
  15. Julie Pace, Obama signs defense bill despite 'serious reservations', Associated Press, January 1, 2012.
  16. Jonathan Turley, The NDAA's historic assault on American liberty, The Guardian, January 2, 2012.
  17. Press release, December 31, 2011 from American Civil Liberties Union.