Fair Trials is a human rights organisation that works to promote and improve respect for the right to a fair trial in criminal justice.
Our offices in London, Brussels and Washington DC coordinate their actions in order to:
- help people in need to understand and defend their rights, though the provision of direct advice and assistance, referrals to lawyers, and strategic litigation before regional-level courts;
- fight for legal and policy change at both the regional and national levels, through high quality policy reports, innovative communications strategies, and concerted advocacy efforts with like-minded groups; and
- build an international network of fair trial defenders, including through the delivery of trainings and, in the OSCE region, the coordination of a pan-European network of 160 law firms, civil society organizations, and academic institutions with expertise on criminal justice issues (the Legal Experts Advisory Panel, or “LEAP”).
At Fair Trials, we focus our work on those areas that comprise the greatest challenges to fair trial rights. Currently, they include:
Cross-border criminal justice cooperation: Extradition laws do not always contain appropriate safeguards to ensure that basic human rights are respected. We have long been campaigning for fairer extradition laws and practices across the world, including cooperation mechanisms such as INTERPOL and the European Arrest Warrant. Our advocacy has informed the reform of these international, regional and bilateral mechanisms. We have also assisted a large number of individuals in cross-border criminal justice matters, including human rights defenders from within the OSCE region against whom INTERPOL Red Notices have been issued.
Pre-trial detention: With about three million people being held in pre-trial detention across the world, abuse of this instrument is widespread. Our major policy report, A Measure of Last Resort? The practice of pre-trial detention decision-making in the EU, has shown the need for reform and we are currently campaigning for EU-wide legislation to set common minimum standards on the use of pre-trial detention across all EU Member States, as well as working on pre-trial detention issues in the OSCE region more generally.
Access to Justice: Across the OSCE region, people are being detained for months or years before trial, denied information on their rights, and are not being given access to a lawyer or legal aid to pay for an effective lawyer or interpreter. In the EU, we have helped to secure ground-breaking and enforceable new laws which guarantee crucial defence rights to all suspects and defendants across the EU and we are working with our network to press for the effective implementation of these standards and with groups in the broader OSCE region on applying those standards in their jurisdictions.
Guilty pleas: Coerced confessions, plea bargains, and other mechanisms to extract a guilty plea and avoid trial, often jeopardize fair trial rights, such as the right against self-incrimination, the right to a fair hearing, equality of arms, judicial oversight, and effective and meaningful access to a lawyer, and broader societal goals surrounding the use of trials. Over the last couple of years, we have been documenting the use and abuse of plea bargaining across the world, including in the OSCE region, and we will be officially launch our campaign for reform in 2017 with the publication of a major policy report on the subject.