Fair trials abroad - new research

14 December 2009

Fair Trials International, an organisation defending the rights of those facing charges abroad, has published new research into the provision of consular assistance to people facing criminal charges abroad.

Consular assistance is a vital public service. For those outside their own country, detained hundreds of miles from home, unable to speak the local language, ignorant of the local legal system and with no idea of who to turn to for help, consular assistance provides a lifeline.

Funded by the Nuffield Foundation, researchers examined policy and practice in the US, Australia, Britain, the Netherlands and Germany.

Recommendations include:

  • Lists of lawyers provided to defendants should be reviewed annually. Consulates should exchange information on lawyers with non-governmental organisations.
  • Other Ministries should review their policy on trial attendance in light of the evidence from the US that mandatory trial attendance in certain circumstances does not necessarily put extra pressure on resources.
  • Data collection on trials attended should be more systematic and divided between data about the defendant and data about the trial. This information should be analysed to detect patterns.
  • Training should be broadened to address the actual challenges consular officials face and the role they perform when attending trials, in particular with respect to fair trial rights.

The full research report is available to download from the Fair Trials International website.