Campaigning for fair and equal justice systems

Founded in 1992, Fair Trials is an organisation working internationally to defend everyone’s right to a fair trial. Through research, advocacy and campaigning work, Fair Trials addresses issues ranging from access to legal-counsel, misuse of evidence extracted under torture, threats to presumption of innocence, and the increasing use of trial waivers or plea bargaining. The focus of Fair Trials’ work has been on Europe, especially in eastern countries such as Hungary, Poland and Romania, as well as developing more work in the Western Balkans and Central Asia and now in the Americas.

Working in partnership with local NGOs and networks, and, in some cases, with state officials, the organisation advocates for the provision and implementation of due process protections that can dramatically reduce arbitrary and unnecessary detention, as well as cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, including torture. Denial of due process protections can also underpin systemic discrimination. Similarly, the failure to ensure due process protections can contribute to systemic violations and impunity.

Fair Trials organises the Legal Experts Advisory Panel (LEAP), a network of criminal justice experts with representation from 200 organizations and all twenty-seven EU member states. LEAP primarily researches emerging challenges to fair trial rights in Europe and advocates for the effective implementation of fair trial protections.

Such research has become increasingly critical in 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic has seriously impacted due process rights. In many countries, police have been given extensive new powers to detain people, control movement, and in some cases, even restrict speech. Furthermore, many pandemic-era processes, regulations, and laws adopted to facilitate legal processes, such as digitization of court hearings and limited access to in-person meetings with lawyers, are in danger of being adopted permanently. In response, Fair Trials developed the COVID-19 Justice Project World Map, which tracks how criminal justice systems were affected by COVID-19 responses from March to November 2020. Fair Trials has leveraged relationships with partners across Europe to document these threats posed to suspects’ and prisoners’ rights.

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