If a person has been arrested, they have a number of rights in international law. These rights include:

  • The right to be informed of the reason for arrest
  • The right to notify a third person
  • The right to legal council
  • The right to be brought before a judge to determine the lawfulness of the arrest and detention
  • The right to not incriminate oneself and the right to remain silent
  • The right to challenge the lawfulness of detention
  • The right to medical assistance


In order for people to be able to exercise their rights, they must know that they exist. International standards thus require police to inform the person of their rights.

Any person shall, at the moment of arrest and at the commencement of detention or imprisonment, or promptly thereafter, be provided by the authority responsible for his arrest, detention or imprisonment, respectively with information on and an explanation of his rights and how to avail himself of such rights.

Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, Principle 13


View Regional Standards


Robben Island Guidelines, Guideline 20(d):

a) The right that a relative or other appropriate third person is notified of the detention;

b) The right to an independent medical examination;

c) The right of access to a lawyer;

d) Notification of the above rights in a language, which the person deprived of their liberty understands





Committee for the Prevention of Torture, para 16: The CPT also emphasised in the 2nd General Report the importance of persons taken into police custody being expressly informed without delay of all their rights. In order to ensure that this is done, the CPT considers that a form setting out those rights in a straightforward manner should be systematically given to persons detained by the police at the very outset of their custody. Further, the persons concerned should be asked to sign a statement attesting that they have been informed of their rights.


We will now look at these guarantees in turn to see what exactly they entail.



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