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Safeguarding the right to a fair trial during the coronavirus pandemic: remote criminal justice proceedings

FairTrialsAdmin - April 3, 2020 - COVID-19 Updates, Guides, Remote Justice

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is now a global health emergency, affecting more than a billion people worldwide. In more and more countries, normal life has effectively been suspended, as sweeping measures are introduced to control the spread of the disease by way of ‘lockdowns’, bans on social gatherings, and the closure of public facilities.

These measures have also had an impact on criminal justice systems, as access to courts and prisons have come under severe restrictions, and as non-essential travel has become almost impossible in many countries.

Many states have temporarily postponed all non-urgent court hearings, but with no clear end of the crisis in sight, various jurisdictions across the world are seeking ways to keep the courts running through means of remote access, including via video-link or telephone hearings. It is essential, however, that states do not rush to adopt these measures without properly considering the human rights impact of remote justice procedures, and in particular, the implications on the right to a fair trial. Defendants should be able to exercise their rights fully and effectively, even when they are not physically present in court, and are unable to meet their lawyers in person. It is crucial that any decisions to introduce or expand the use of remote court hearings are informed by human rights concerns, and accompanied by appropriate safeguards to protect the rights of defendants.

Fair Trials has produced a guide which summarises human rights concerns related to the use of remote justice procedures and provides practical recommendations for states that are either considering adopting or expanding the use of remote communications systems in criminal justice proceedings, or are in the process of implementing them.

The guide is available in:

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71.

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