Fair Trials calls for end to remote hearings in Latin America

Article by Fair Trials

Fair Trials and nine other human rights organizations will call on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to ban videoconferencing in initial or custody hearings across Latin America. The organizations will present their views at a thematic hearing on June 30, 2021.

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. This would be a huge setback in the fight against torture, which is still a massive problem across the region. Having lawyers present in these hearings can help to detect and prevent torture by state agents, as well as safeguard the fundamental rights of detainees, including the right to a fair trial and due process.

Fair Trials will ask the Commission to take a clear position on the prohibition of videoconferencing in initial or custody hearings. We will also propose the creation and adoption of regional guidelines that can inform the effective use of technologies in criminal proceedings, now and in the post-pandemic era, given the risk of normalization of the extraordinary measures that have been taken in the past year.

In our report and during the hearing, we will focus on:

1) The use of video conferencing in initial or custody hearings.

2) Why is it necessary to hold initial hearings in person to prevent torture, and what is happening in practice.

3) Why it is important to hold initial hearings in person when decisions about pre-detention are being made.

4) How the use of video audiences during initial or custody hearings disproportionately affects the most vulnerable groups in the region.

The hearing will take place on June 30, 2021. The ten organizations include: Fair Trials, Instituto de Defesa do Direito de Defesa (IDDD), el Instituto de Justicia Procesal Penal (IJPP), Fundación para el Debido Proceso (DPLF), Observatorio de Derechos y Justicia (ODJEC), Conectas Direitos Humanos, Fundación Construir, Asociación para la Prevención de la Tortura (APT), Asociación por las Libertades Públicas [LLPP], y Red de Defensores/as Democráticos/as (REDD)

Watch our film on torture by the police and prison officers in Mexico