International Law Studies


This article discusses one principal challenge to detention without trial of suspected international terrorists—the international human rights law (IHRL) norm requiring the introduction of an upper limit on the duration of security detention in order to render it not indefinite in length. Part One of this article describes the “hardline” position on security detention, adopted by the United States in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks (followed, with certain variations, by other countries, including the United Kingdom and the State of Israel), according to which international terrorism suspects can be deprived of their liberty without trial for the duration of the armed conflict in which the organizations they are affiliated with participate. Part Two describes judicial and quasi-judicial challenges to the “hardline” position, and Part Three addresses recent developments in IHRL relating to the co-application of IHL and IHRL and the extra-territoriality of certain IHRL norms, and specifically discusses developments relating to the application of IHRL norms governing security detentions. Part Four concludes by offering an IHRL-based perspective to security detention policy and, in particular, to aspects of the policy leading to de facto indefinite detention.