What is a fair trial?

The right to a fair trial guarantees you fair court proceedings. This does not mean that the court has to make a decision in your favour or agree with you. A fair trial means that the court follows all procedures correctly and treats all parties equally, so that the trial itself is fair and effective, regardless of the decision and outcome.

Elements of the right to fair trial

A fair trial cannot be ensured if courts do not work in a transparent, reliable and effective way. The basic requirements which form the right to a fair trial are applicable to all courts. The requirements of your right to a fair trial can be divided into two groups:

Requirements for the court The court must be established by law and its judges must be independent and impartial. 

Requirements for the procedure The court procedure has to be organized in such a way that you are able to access the court and participate meaningfully in the trial on equal terms and conditions with your opponent.

Your duties

It may seem that ensuring your right to a fair trial is solely the responsibility of the court and the State. Indeed, human rights are protected by the State and because of this the State has many obligations. Where your rights are violated, it can be held responsible and must grant you compensation.  

The State is generally responsible for creating courts and court procedures that ensure a fair trial. But the trial can only be fair and efficient if you also fulfil your duties within it. If you don’t do what is required of you and that contributes to a violation of your fair trial guarantees, you will not be able to hold the state responsible for the outcome of your own actions.

There are two kinds of responsibilities that you have to protect your own rights:

  • Duties, which you are obliged to follow because you are participating in a trial
  • The responsibility to prevent or rectify a violation of your right to a fair trial by complaining about it when there is such an opportunity

Read more about your duties and responsibilities in criminal proceedings, administrative offences proceedings, civil proceedings and administrative proceedings.

In law

The right to fair trial is included in:

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