National judiciaries faced with extraordinary challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The courts are required to comply with restriction measures while ensuring the right to a fair trial. As a result, many of them resorted to the increased use of online tools to conduct hearings.
Are such solutions compliant with Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights? How the procedural human rights guarantees can be secured? Can a judge effectively assess the evidence or testimony online? What is the practice and lessons learned in the Council of Europe Member States? These and other related questions have been discussed on 18 June 2020 at a regional online round table “Videoconference in court proceedings: human rights standards”, organised for more than 70 legal professionals from the Western Balkans and Turkey with participation of practicing lawyers and scholars from the Council of Europe Member States and lawyers from the Registry of the European Court of Human Rights.
Case law of the European Court of Human Rights as well as varying state practice from France, Russia, Serbia, UK and other countries was discussed in the light of the fair trial principles.
One of the key messages resulted from the discussion is that the videoconference is just a tool that can serve its purpose as long as the fairness of trial is guaranteed. Still it is always a responsibility of a judge, as a master of a process, to exercise its discretion to make sure the use of technology keeps the trial in line with the overall objective of Article 6 of the ECHR.
The regional online round table was the second in the series dedicated to the effects of COVID-19 pandemic on various human rights issues. The objective is to provide a platform for discussion among the stakeholders of the countries of the Western Balkans and neighbourhood on the related challenges, and to look at the issues from the human rights and the rule of law perspectives.
The online round table complemented other Council of Europe actions related to the pandemic, which included the launch of a dedicated web page and publication by the Secretary General of a toolkit for member states on respecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law in the framework of the COVID-19 sanitary crisis.
The activity was organised in the framework of the joint programme of the European Union and the Council of Europe “Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey 2019-2022”.
Panel discussions and sharing of experience
- Ms Maria Filatova, Head of Laboratory of International Justice and Associate Professor at Faculty of Law, Higher School of Economics, Russian Federation (courtesy translation in Turkish)
- Mr Jeremy McBride, barrister, Monckton Chambers, United Kingdom
- Ms Ivana Krstic, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Belgrade, Serbia (courtesy translation in Turkish)
- Mr Christian Licoppe, Department of Social Science, Telecom Paris and I3 (UMR CNRS 9217), France (courtesy translation in Turkish)