Detention - FAQs


1. What is the United Nations Detention Unit (UNDU)?
2. What is provisional release?
3. What are the facilities in the Detention Unit?
4. Can detainees have visitors?
5. When and how often can defence attorneys visit their clients?


1. What is the United Nations Detention Unit (UNDU)?

Upon arrest, an accused is placed under custody of the ICTY in The Hague. He or she is brought to the United Nations Detention Unit which is located near the Tribunal, in the borough of Scheveningen, within one of the largest Dutch penitentiary facilities. The accused is held in the Detention Unit while awaiting trial and while the trial is in progress. Since, like in all legal systems, accused before the Tribunal enjoy the presumption of innocence until they are proven guilty in a court of law, the UNDU is a remand centre and not a prison. Operating in line with the highest international human rights standards for the treatment of detainees, the Tribunal’s DU has held more than 130 persons for different periods of time since April 1995. The Detention Unit does not separate detainees according to their ethnicity, nationality, religion or class. Persons found guilty of war crimes do not serve their sentence there. Instead, they are transferred to prison in a state with which the ICTY has a sentencing agreement.

2. What is provisional release?

All detainees have the right to apply for provisional release in their pre-trial phase and, in exceptional circumstances, during the trial and when the convicted person is awaiting their appeal hearing. Tribunal judges determine whether provisional release may be granted. The Trial Chamber hearing the case will carefully review the circumstances of each individual before issuing such an order and will only authorise a provisional release if satisfied that a detainee will later appear for trial and will not pose a threat to any victim, witness, or other person if released. Furthermore, the Trial Chamber may impose conditions upon the release that it feels are necessary to ensure the presence of the accused for trial and the protection of others. For example, this could take the form of the execution of a bail bond, restrictions on movement and special security arrangements, a ban on meeting with witnesses, politicians and the media. Factors determining whether an accused is granted provisional release may include elements such as whether the accused surrendered voluntarily, specific health considerations, expected length of pre-trial procedure, etc. A significant number of accused have been provisionally released since the establishment of the Tribunal.

3. What are the facilities in the Detention Unit?

Detainees are accommodated in personal cells, which include shower and toilet, where they spend 12 hours every day. Medical services and religious counselling are available to all detainees, and, at their request, visits from private doctors and religious representatives may also be arranged. Detainees are allowed the use of the Detention Unit’s open-air exercise yard for at least one hour per day and have access to indoor exercise facilities as well. They also have the possibility to participate in arts and crafts classes and to follow English lessons twice a week. A library is available to the detainees, and books and other reading material may be obtained from outside the Detention Unit for personal use. Detainees may also receive visits from family, friends and others during visiting hours, subject to individual restrictions.

4. Can detainees have visitors?

Detainees are allowed to meet visitors during visiting hours and according to regulations established by the Detention Unit. These regulations may include personal searches of clothing and X-ray examination of possessions on entry to either the Detention Unit or the host prison. The Registrar may refuse to allow a person to visit a detainee if he has reason to believe that the purpose of the visit is to obtain information which may be subsequently reported in the media. A detainee must be informed of the identity of each visitor and may refuse to see any visitor other than a representative of the prosecutor. Any person, including defence counsel for a detainee or a diplomatic or consular representative accredited to the host state, who refuses to comply with such requirements, may be refused access.

5. When and how often can defence attorneys visit their clients?

Counsel representing clients are issued with a visiting permit which grants them unlimited access to visit their clients during the set visiting hours at the United Nations Detention Unit (UNDU) in The Hague.