Nearly all governments outlaw what is called administrative detention of suspected criminals, but it is just as true that nearly all declare exceptional circumstances when the rules don't apply, among them 'national security.' Each country its own rules for how long a terrorism suspect can legally be detained without charge: from indefinite detention for 'enemy combatants' at the U.S. detention facility Guantanamo Bay, to nearly a year in Uganda, to four days in Spain.
Administrative Detention Legally OK from Days to Several Years in 85 Countries
Administrative detention is detention without charge or trial. Ihe International Commission of Jurists found in 2005 that:
The resort to administrative detention on grounds of public order, State or national security ... is not a new phenomenon.... In 1985, The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) counted at least some 85 countries provided with legislation allowing for the practice of the administrative detention for public order, State or national security grounds. Amongst these 85 countries, 43 provided deprivation of liberty for an indefinite period of time or several years or even decades.
Algeria: 12 days
According to Algerian law, those detained on terrorism or subversion grounds can be held for twelve days. This limit is not always respected, although, according to Human Rights Watch
in 2003, abuse of the limit and of torture prohibitions was "less flagrant" than in the mid- 1990s.
Australia: 4 hours to 14 days
"Suspects can be held for four hours, which can be increased to 24 hours on application to a magistrate. After that period, suspects are charged or released. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation can hold suspects for up to 14 days under a warrant issued by a federal judge" (UK Independent, as of 2005*).
Some of the information in this list is drawn from the 2005 article in the UK daily The Independent. Attribution is noted where necessary.
Canada: 24 hours to indefinitely"Terror suspects can be held for a maximum of 24 hours before they must go before a federal court judge. There is no maximum time limit on detentions, but a judge must be satisfied that they are being held lawfully" (The Independent, as of 2005). Note that this does not mean a suspect must be charged with a crime.
Egypt: 24 hours for a detention order, then indefinitely in 15 day increments
Egyptian constitutional guarantees are frequently overridden by Emergency Laws, which is also the case with detention. According to an investigation by Human Rights Watch
in 2005: "police or SSI can normally hold persons for up to twenty-four hours before they must either release them or obtain a detention order. Egypt’s Emergency Law, Law No. 162 of 1958, which the government has renewed every three years without interruption since October 1981, permits arbitrary arrest and renewable fifteen-day periods of detention without trial. . . . Law 97/1992, known as the Law to Combat Terrorism, provides for detention without referral to the Public Prosecution Office under certain circumstances."
Ethiopia: Arbitrary arrest and detention illegal; length of detentions unclearEthiopian detention length is difficult to discern through observation, since many detained terrorism suspects are not even acknowledged; moreover, the War on Terror offers protective cover for Ethiopia to pick up members of political opposition or anti-government militias. In January and February 2007, according to Amnesty international, 85 men, women and children fleeing Somalia for Kenya were illegally rendered to Ethiopia after fleeing conflict between Somali militias and Ethiopian troops supporting the Somali government. Only 41 were acknowledged to have arrived. The U.S. has also reportedly interrogated detainees 'rendered' to Ethiopia from third countries.
France: 4 days maximum before being charged, up to four years following charge"Suspects can be held for 48 hours initially, which can be extended by two further periods of 24 hours - four days in total. Under the French system of investigative magistrates, suspects can be held and questioned after they are charged for up to four years before their case is brought to trial" (The Independent, 2005)
Germany: 48 hours"Suspects must be brought before a judge within 48 hours of arrest. They can be remanded in custody while the criminal investigation is under way, with detention reviewed by a judge at least every six months.' (The Independent, 2005)
Great Britain: 28 DaysThe British parliament is debating this month whether to extend the period during which someone suspected of planning or committing terrorism can be detained from 28 days to 42. Parliament is debating whether to extend that period to 42 days. According to Geoffrey Dear, a former chief constable of West Midlands Police and now an independent peer in the House of Lords, this would constitute a "propaganda coup for Al Qaeda" –because the British will appear to be so extreme, or Draconian, in their treatment of suspects.
Greece: 24 hours"Arrested suspects must be brought before a public prosecutor within 24 hours. They can be held for up to 18 months under extraordinary circumstances." (The Independent, 2005)