Defending theHuman Rightto a Fair Trial
June 24, 2014
Following the launch of our pre-trial detention project, it’s been revealed that, globally, there are currently close to three million people being held in pre-trial detention. In Europe, pre-trial detainees make up around one fifth of the prison population (up to nearly 50% in the Netherlands). These shocking figures highlight the need to better understand what is causing this extensive recourse to imprisonment for people who have not been convicted of any offence, and who should be treated as innocent unless and until proven guilty.
As LEAP member, and one of Fair Trials’ project partners, Professor Ed Cape explains: ‘The over-use of pre-trial detention is a serious problem around the world. In order to improve laws and practices, it is important to understand why so many people who have not been found guilty of any offence are locked up, often for months or even years. This project is unique in examining pre-trial detention in practice across ten different European countries, and should help make a step-change in the way pre-trial detention is used.’
Fair Trials and our partners have been campaigning for the end of unjustified pre-trial detention as part of our work to put fair trials at the heart of EU justice.
Another of our partners, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, has seen first-hand the impact of pre-trial detention in their country. As the organisation has pointed out, “more than one-third of the prison population consists of pre-trial detainees (more than 5000 people), and the average length of pre-trial detention is more than six months.”
In Lithuania, we’ve previously written about the way in which pre-trial detention is used in the country. Karolis Liutkevičius, a legal officer with HRMI, explains that “excessive use of pre-trial detention remains one of the major unresolved criminal justice issues in Lithuania. During the last five years 95% of prosecutors’ requests for pre-trial detention were granted by the courts. We hope that the project will help us determine the underlying causes of this practice and initiate positive changes on the ground.”
The experience of Fair Trials and its partners, along with this new report, shows the need for a greater understanding of the use of pre-trial detention. Of the participating countries, the average percentage of the prison population being held pre-trial is over 20%, with half of the prison population of the Netherlands prison population being pre-trial detainees. Pre-trial detention also accounts for over a quarter of the prison populations of Hungary, Italy and Greece.
This problem isn’t just limited to the EU, and we have previously profiled pre-trial detention in countries including Uganda, Malawi and Macedonia.
You can find out more about the report here.
If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on 020 7822 2370 or 07950 849 851.
For regular updates follow Fair Trials on Twitter or sign-up to our monthly bulletin at the bottom of the page.
Show your support and Link to us.
View our Site Map
By accessing, browsing or otherwise using this website
Fair Trials Europe is a registered public foundation in Belgium (No. 552688677).
Fair Trials Europe was founded by Fair Trials International
(a registered charity with limited liability in England and Wales, Nos 1134586 and 7135273),
together they form Fair Trials.