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The Importance of Upholding the Right to a Fair Trial in Criminal Justice

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

Alessia from Vision Factory

Author: Alessia Fucile

Date of Publication: 14/04/2023

On 4th November 1950, in Rome, the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) was signed by 47 member States of the Council of Europe. This international treaty aimed at protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms within Europe. In particular, the Convention established the European Court of Human Rights, to help people obtain justice, in case of violation of their human rights.

I want to be heard, human rights

The Court has jurisdiction for all matters concerning the interpretation or application of the Convention and its Protocols. Then, its judgment against the State in question is final and binding, in order to ensure the correct interpretation of supranational law.

Article 6 of the ECHR

Article 6 is one of the most important of the ECHR. In particular, it deals with the fair trial, its duration, the presumption of innocence, and the procedural rights of accused persons. Among these guarantees, the right to be heard plays a primary role. This is because it allows the defendant to make his statements and to face the accuser in trials.

The entire article is available at the following link.

Article 6 should be applied to disputes concerning property rights and family law proceedings. For example, some rights are the adoption or return of minors in the event of parental cross-border abduction. In addition, it should be applied to claims for compensation against public authorities (mainly hospitals). Apart from that, it is good for disciplinary measures against judges and magistrates.

The Right to a fair trial in Criminal Justice

The right to a fair trial in criminal justice is a fundamental principle of democratic societies and judges, prosecutors and legislators must ensure that this right is respected. In a rule of law, an unfair trial must be repeated or it is possible to appeal the judgment to the European Court of Human Rights. This could occur when judges are guilty of corruption, in cases of intimidation of witnesses and breach of the right of defense.

Therefore, a trial imperatively requires an impartial judge, witnesses free from conditioning, and equal legal assistance for all parties involved.

Human rights are not optional

What are the procedural guarantees in favor of the accused?

A person accused of a crime is entitled to certain rights and guarantees. First of all, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty and he also can remain silent to avoid self-incrimination. Public officials must pay attention to not publicly state that a person is responsible for a crime before a court has found him guilty.

Police and judicial officers have to inform the accused about the grounds of the charges against him. Of course, the goal is to facilitate the preparation of his defense as soon as possible. The time needed by the defendant to organize his defense depends on the complexity of the case, but some facilitations must always be guaranteed.

Among these, is the possibility to have confidential face-to-face meetings with only his lawyer’s presence. The accused, moreover, can personally choose his defender and he has the right to free legal assistance in case of lack of financial means. In the event that the defendant is not able to understand or speak the language used in the trial, he can also ask for a free interpreter.

Rights, court


Reference List

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