A new resource to arm lawyers, defendants and the judiciary with the tools to fight against unfair trials and injustice is published by Amnesty International today.
A practical guide on the internationally agreed standards for fair criminal proceedings, the second edition of the Fair Trial Manual is the first update in more than 15 years.
“The Fair Trial Manual is essential reading for anyone having to battle against injustice,” said Michael Bochenek, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International.
“It provides practical guidance on which corners prosecutors must never try to cut. In extreme cases, it can also help to expose politically motivated show trials for what they really are. Even in the most oppressive states, where the judiciary is little more than a puppet for political masters, highlighting abuses can and does achieve results.”
The Manual will be used by a wide range of people assessing the fairness of an individual criminal case or criminal justice system. These include:
- lawyers and judges acting in criminal proceedings
- trial observers, legislators and human rights educators
- human rights monitors working to assist efforts to re-establish the rule of law and in complex post-conflict situations
Political prisoners have also used the Fair Trial Manual to represent themselves in court—as a ‘DIY defence guide’. Albin Kurti was arrested in Kosovo in 2007 during a protest which he helped to organize. He spent five months in prison, and another five months under house arrest. With the Manual as a guide, he was able to secure his own release.
“Amnesty’s Fair Trial Manual…helped me to identify the political character of my trial… as well as teaching me how to defend myself. The Fair Trial Manual helped me to reveal and resist the injustice of my trial,” said Albin Kurti, former political prisoner, leader of VETËVENDOSJE! (Self-Determination!) party, and deputy in the Kosovo Assembly.
The second edition of the Manual, published by popular demand, reflects the significant changes to the global legal and political context since the first edition. Many new standards have been adopted, for example, on women deprived of their liberty and the right to access legal aid. It also reflects the growing recognition that fairness includes regard for the rights of victims and that many fair trial rights apply at all times and in all circumstances, even during states of emergency and armed conflicts.
The Manual includes dedicated chapters on death penalty cases, trials in armed conflict and fair trial rights of children.
“Criminal trials are a litmus test for a state’s respect for human rights. No matter what the crime, unfair trials deny justice for everyone involved: the accused, the victim, and the public,” said Jill Heine, international human rights lawyer and lead author of the Amnesty International Fair Trial Manual.
“We hope that people who use the Fair Trial Manual will be empowered to advocate around the world for fair trials and fair justice systems.”
The first Fair Trial Manual was published in 1998 principally to support Amnesty International staff and members. However, it was so enthusiastically received around the world that it was soon in large demand and published in 15 languages.
Endorsements for the first and second editions of the Manual include:
- “It is a must for anyone involved in examining how well a criminal trial or criminal justice system meets international standards of fairness. Frankly it is an invaluable toolbox for any criminal lawyer in practice, from beginner to seasoned professional… I intend to keep my Manual by my side.” Keir Starmer, QC, former Director of Public Prosecutions in the UK
- “When I found the Fair Trial Manual, I felt like I had struck gold. It explains the multitude of legal standards in a comprehensive, straightforward and accessible way.” Dr Vivienne O’Connor, US Institute of Peace
- “The Manual has proved to be a very valuable source to have for checking issues ‘on the go’ within a short period of time, and as a reference in practical situations including trial observation.” Mervat Rishmawi, Human rights consultant
- “This is an important reference guide for me and my fellow judges.” Mohamed Tarawneh, Supreme Court Judge, Jordan
- “I have little doubt that this revised Manual will be extensively used by human rights practitioners and activists in their day-to-day work.” Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena, Human rights lawyer and senior legal analyst, Sri Lanka