Statement on Pretrial Detention and Discrimination
This month, the Open Society Justice Initiative and more than 30 other organizations met in Johannesburg, South Africa, to further develop the Global Campaign for Pretrial Justice at the continental level. On Human Rights Day, we join advocates across the globe in the struggle against discrimination, drawing particular attention to the multiple layers of discrimination faced by many poor and marginalized individuals who are unnecessarily and arbitrarily held in pretrial detention.
As we celebrate Human Rights Day, an estimated three million people around the world are behind bars awaiting trial. During the course of 2010, this daily cohort will likely have amounted to over nine million people—many of whom will have spent months or even years in detention, often languishing under worse conditions than those convicted of crimes and sentenced to prison.
People from the poorest and most marginalized sectors of society are most at risk: they are more likely to be arrested and detained, and then face multiple layers of discrimination at the hands of law enforcement agents.
Manfred Nowak, the outgoing United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, expressed particular concern regarding the inhuman and degrading conditions of many places of detention, noting that "victims are often already marginalized members of society who face double discrimination when they are detained." In many countries, minorities continue to form a disproportionate part of the detained population. Where, for example, disabled or intersexual people are arrested, discrimination is compounded by a lack of appropriate conditions and frequent exposure to humiliation and abuse.