Defending the
Human Right
to a
Fair Trial

The Rule of Law

red3“No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.” ICCPR Article 9.1

In countries governed by the Rule of Law, every person is subject to the same laws and no one, however rich or powerful, is above the law. This basic principle is crucial to the Right to a Fair Trial.

The Rule of Law means that our actions are only criminal if they are prohibited by laws that have been made publicly following a proper process. This gives people clarity about what is and is not permitted in society, and avoids arbitrary punishment. The Rule of Law means new criminal laws can only apply to future actions and cannot have retrospective effect. Therefore, if your actions are not prohibited when you do them they are not unlawful.

This principle also creates a level playing field and ensures equality. The Rule of Law requires criminal laws to be enforced in a uniform way. For some suspects, this can mean that special measures are needed to give them a Fair Chance to Present a Defence. Non-nationals, for example, may need interpretation and children may need additional support so that they can participate effectively in the trial.

Impartial and independent courts are at the heart of the Right to a Fair Trial. This ensures that those deciding whether a person has committed a criminal offence are neutral and are making a fair assessment of the facts. The courts must themselves be created by and subject to the law to ensure independence and prevent arbitrariness.

While the Right to a Fair Trial exists to minimize mistakes, no justice system always produces the right outcome. For this reason people must have the right of appeal to a higher court. This is needed to redress injustice and to uphold society’s faith in the integrity of the justice system. It is also fundamental for ensuring consistency, fairness and uniform interpretation of the law.