Right to a Fair Trial (Module 11, UNODC University Module series: Counter-Terrorism)

Right to a Fair Trial (Module 11, UNODC University Module series: Counter-Terrorism)

The series of Modules on Counter-Terrorism Education, developed within the Education for Justice (E4J) initiative, aim to provide a relevant and valuable resource for lecturers teaching courses on counter-terrorism in universities and academic institutions across the world. The Modules seek to enhance students’ understanding of terrorism, its implications and related issues by providing foundational knowledge on relevant international, regional and national instruments and approaches. To increase their effectiveness, the Modules aim to connect theory to practice, encourage critical thinking, and use innovative interactive teaching approaches such as experiential learning, case studies and group-based work. The Modules are multi-disciplinary and can be integrated in a series of courses ranging from law to international relations, sociology, anthropology, criminology and many other disciplines. Whilst the primary focus is on the United Nations instruments, the Modules leave room for diverse perspectives and lecturers can easily adapt them to different local and cultural contexts.

Counter-Terrorism_module_overview_imageModule 11. Right to a Fair Trial

One of the most fundamental guarantees of human rights and the rule of law is the right to a fair trial which should form a core component of counter-terrorism laws, policies and practices. Consequently, however heinous the allegations made against individuals charged with terrorism offences, they should be afforded a fair trial with accompanying due process in accordance with internationally agreed standards. To do otherwise risks diluting the rule of law within States, as well as furthering terrorist agendas, which often have the undermining of constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed by States to their citizens as one of their main objectives.

Furthermore, any dilution of the right to fair trial risks eroding the protection of other closely related rights, such as the right to life (Module 8), the prohibition against torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment (Module 9), and rights concerning arrest and detention (Module 10). Due process guarantees are especially important in terrorism-related trials, which generally carry severe sanctions by way of punishment to reflect their gravity, such as life imprisonment or even capital punishment (see further Module 8). The primary objectives of this Module, therefore, are to identify and discuss international and regional fair trial and due process principles and standards, as well as to examine some criminal justice practices which threaten or undermine such fundamental rule of law guarantees.

Learning outcomes

UUnderstand the primary international and regional legal frameworks making provision for fair trial and due process rights and obligations applicable in both peacetime and armed conflict situations.

Identify and explain applicable minimum fair trial and due process principles and standards.

Consider and compare some of the linkages between the right to fair trial and other human rights protections examined throughout this course.

Identify and examine some of the most significant contemporary challenges to the right to a fair trial that have arisen through the counter-terrorism laws, policies and practices of States.

The full module is avaliable at UNODC website

TopicHuman Rights , Law enforcement, Rehabilitation and Re-integration


Themes: Human Rights , Law enforcement, Rehabilitation and Re-integration