Defending the
Human Right
to a
Fair Trial

The Right to a Fair Trial

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It is a key role of any government to maintain law and order on behalf of the whole society; to hold people to account for crimes they have committed and to ensure that justice is done – and seen to be done. But this carries with it a grave responsibility, because convicting someone of a criminal offence and potentially taking away a person’s liberty is one of the most serious steps any government can take against an individual. This step can only be justified after the person has been given a Fair Trial.

The Right to a Fair Trial means that people can be sure that processes will be fair and certain. It prevents governments from abusing their powers. A Fair Trial is the best means of separating the guilty from the innocent and protecting against injustice. Without this right, the rule of law and public faith in the justice system collapse. The Right to a Fair Trial is one of the cornerstones of a just society.

In response to the horrors of the Second World War, the United Nations was formed and set out the fundamental rights of human beings in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Right to a Fair Trial was at its heart:

“Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of … any criminal charge against him.”

The international community proclaimed the Right to a Fair Trial to be a “foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.

The Right to a Fair Trial is recognised internationally as a fundamental human right and countries are required to respect it. Different countries have developed different ways of doing this, but regardless of how a particular legal system operates, the principles below are core to all fair justice systems and they all form part of the Right to a Fair Trial.