Detention

The unit operates in line with the highest international human rights standards for the treatment of detainees.

The ICTY’s Detention Unit (DU) is a remand centre under the supervision of the Tribunal’s Registry and is located within a Dutch prison complex in the Scheveningen neighbourhood of The Hague.

The unit houses those persons accused by the ICTY Prosecution after they have been transferred to The Hague to stand trial. While awaiting or undergoing trial the physical and emotional welfare of detainees is of paramount importance. The unit has the responsibility to defend the dignity of all persons detained and to protect their rights as individuals whilst their freedom is denied.

The unit is run in accordance with the Rules of Detention which provide guidance in two essential areas: the management of the Detention Unit and the rights of the detainee.


The unit runs a comprehensive program of remand which has a full daily schedule providing for fresh air, exercise, medical care, occupational therapy, spiritual guidance, conditions suitable for the preparation of defence, IT facilities and training, visiting and recreational and sport activities. The detainees also have access to satellite TV stations and press from the former Yugoslavia.

The Detention Unit has a well equipped medical facility, staffed with a medical officer and an assistant. It is designed to provide detainees with basic healthcare and emergency services. This is especially important considering that, unlike most national detention unit facilities, the average age of detainees is relatively high and that most of them arrive to the DU with various health problems. As of 11 May 2012, the average age of detainees was 59.6 years. However, the high medical service standards afforded by the ICTY result in the health of many detainees improving while they are incarcerated.

The first person accommodated in the unit was Duško Tadić in April 1995. Since then, more than 180 individuals have been held for different periods of time, of this number 141 were accused of war crimes by ICTY, 36 were detained witnesses, and 13 were accused or convicted of contempt of court. The unit has the current capacity to hold up to 52 detainees, each having full access to all facilities.

The unit operates in line with the highest international human rights standards for the treatment of detainees. Like in all legal systems, accused before the Tribunal enjoy the presumption of innocence unless they are proven guilty in a court of law. Regardless of what crimes they have been charged with, or what stage their trial is in, all detainees receive equal treatment. Detainees are not separated according to their ethnicity, nationality, religion or class.

The unit is subject to frequent independent inspections by external agencies such as the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Persons convicted of crimes do not serve their sentence in the unit as it is not a penitentiary. They are transferred to a prison outside of the Netherlands to serve their time.

Detainees’ Daily Routine


A detainee will spend part of an average day in court or interacting with other detainees, and part locked in his individual cell. The unit opens the individual cells in the early morning. Some detainees prepare to leave for court at this time while others start their daily routine in the unit.

The unit consists of a number of floors with several cells on each level. The detainees may roam their individual floors after their cells are opened in the morning. The floors participate in communal activities such as English language classes or religious services, and each floor designates one hour per day for outdoor activity. During the day detainees may have visits from family and friends or consultations with lawyers. Around
midday, detainees are returned to their cells for a short time in order to allow a shift change and lunch for staff.

Afterwards, the cells are reopened and the detainees may continue with their routine. Throughout the day, detainees may watch television or read newspapers and magazines. While the unit permits computers, internet access is not permitted. Cells are locked during the early evening and they remain locked until the next morning.