Fair Trials in Latin America
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Torture by law enforcement officials, including police officers and prison guards, is a systemic problem in many central and Latin American countries. Torture is used to extract confessions, which are admitted in court, resulting in unfair trials and miscarriages of justice.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there has been a rapid expansion of the use of remote technology in criminal proceedings across the region. There is the risk that the use of video hearings will continue to expand and become the norm after the pandemic has ended, which would be a huge setback in the fight against torture.
How we work
As an international NGO, we bring in-depth expertise from a comparative and international perspective to provide innovative and practical solutions to long-standing problems. We also provide access to a brilliant and engaged network of leading lawyers from the region and abroad, non-profits (including IDDD and CNJ), academics and practitioners from fields as diverse as forensic investigations, law enforcement and psychology from around the world. Our team includes Latin American experts that work in Spanish and Portuguese.
We are part of a wider movement to reform criminal justice across the region. Together with the Instituto de Justicia Procesal Penal, Fair Trials created Red de Defensores/as Democraticos/as, a network of defence lawyers and criminal justice and human rights experts in Mexico.
REDD fights against torture, promotes the right to a fair trial and develops effective litigation tools for the exclusion of evidence obtained under torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Find out more.
Fair Trials supports the incorporation and monitoring of international standards in the framework of criminal justice systems, highlighting the importance of the presence of a lawyer in the first hours of detention. We strengthen defence lawyers’ knowledge of the international frameworks that regulate the actions of law enforcement when conducting information gathering interviews, and the type of evidence that can support allegations of torture, including forensic reports.
Torture, degrading and inhumane treatment
Fair Trials works with partners across Central and South America to enable legal professionals to identify, expose and sanction human rights violations that often take place when people are detained in police stations, prisons or other institutions.
The use of torture to for obtaining information or a confession, punishing or discriminating is a problem across the region. People are most vulnerable at the early stages of detention when torture is used to extract confessions and statements. These incriminating statements are then admitted in court, resulting in unfair trials and miscarriages of justice.
Watch our video exposing the extent of torture in Mexico’s police stations and prisons.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a rapid expansion of the use of remote technology in criminal proceedings across Latin America. The expanded use of video hearings is a huge setback in the fight against torture. Having lawyers present in hearings can help to detect and prevent torture by law enforcement officials, as well as safeguard the fundamental rights of people who have been detained.
Fair Trials is campaigning to ensure that remote hearings do not become the norm for justice in Latin America. We have called on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to ban videoconferencing in initial or custody hearings across Latin America.
Based on expertise from Fair Trials work in other jurisdictions, we highlight best practices and warn about the risks of alternatives to trial, including plea bargains and abbreviated procedures. Find out more about Fair Trials campaigns on plea bargaining and trial waivers.
If you are interested in working with Fair Trials in Latin America, please contact Verónica Hinestroza.