Global trend of detention provisions in anti-terror and immigration laws becoming more draconian than ever before.

Immigration laws have the anti-terror amendments including no limit on the period of detention without charge. The 2004 amendments instead limit the interrogation period that a detained person can be subjected to.

The police in Australia can apply to a judicial officer for a total interrogation time of 24 hours, which can, however, be split and used with prolonged breaks, stretching the detention period indefinitely for several days. All that the law cautions is that the extensions should be “reasonable”.

Australia has put in place a legal regime to use detention as a tool for gathering terror-related intelligence. In 2003, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) was legally empowered to detain not only suspects but also “non-suspects” who may be holding information regarding possible terrorist offences.

Since intelligence organisations are less accountable, the judicial control over ASIO is negligible and, therefore, its detention powers are more prone to abuse.


The Patriot Act of the US, allows the attorney general to first detain for seven days any foreign national suspected of terrorism.

After that, he would either be slapped with criminal charges or subjected to deportation proceedings. If a suspect cannot be deported, he can still be detained if the attorney general certifies every six months that national security is at stake.


The Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 empowers its home minister to order indefinite detention if he reasonably believed that the non-national’s presence in the country was a threat to national security or suspected that the person was a terrorist.

But Britain was forced to change its anti-terror law in 2005 following a ruling by its House of Lords that indefinite detention of foreigners was a breach of human rights. The subsequent law empowered the government to resort to a range of measures including house arrest as an alternative to detention without judicial scrutiny.


The Canadian anti-terror law raised controversy for allowing detention to be prolonged indefinitely if the suspect invokes his right to silence. It gave rise to the possibility of innocent persons being detained for indefinite periods simply because they exercised their constitutional right not to answer questions that are self-incriminatory.


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