The Right To a Fair Trial in Latin America

by Maeve Halpin
Monday, 10 September 2018 08:34 GMT

REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Image Caption and Rights Information

Around the world, 3,000,000 people are currently being detained and are awaiting trial. Globally, the right to a fair trial is recognised as a fundamental human right. However, international charity Fair Trials International, which focuses on improving respect for ‘fair trial’ rights, estimates that unfair trials make up over 40% of rights violations found around the world.

According to Fair Trials International‘s website: “Fair trials are the only way to prevent miscarriages of justice and are an essential part of a just society. Every person accused of a crime should have their guilt or innocence determined by a fair and effective legal process. But it’s not just about protecting suspects and defendants. It also makes societies safer and stronger. Without fair trials, victims can have no confidence that justice will be done. Without fair trials, trust in government and the rule of law collapses.”

Information on criminal justice systems is available, but often buried in academic and legislative texts, presented in language that is difficult to understand. To combat this, Fair Trials International creates country specific “Notes of Advice”,  which are accessible and realistic summaries of rights regarding trials, written by practicing lawyers.

Wanting to expand their collection of “Notes of Advice”, Fair Trials International reached out to TrustLaw for pro bono legal support to produce notes for 10 countries in Latin America: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, and Uruguay.  TrustLaw connected Fair Trials to seven law firms across the region coordinated by International law firm Hogan & Lovells: Fontan Balestra Asociados , Mattos Filho, Central LawWhite & Case, Rodrigo, Elias & Medrano and Guyer & Regules.

Jason A. Georges, Hogan & Lovells  said “ We chose to work on this pro-bono project because we are convinced it will have a direct and real impact on real people. It was a fruitful and enlightening experience.  The fact that several law firms joined forces to create one work product made it an even more exciting project.  Additionally, the fact that so many stakeholders were involved assured the success of this ambitious collaborative project that intended to cover so many jurisdictions in such a short period”.  

The firms involved in the project worked together for almost a year to produce useful notes to protect fair trials in Latin America. Lawyers around the region gathered legal research on a range of issues including rights upon arrest, how to find a lawyer, staying in prison until trial, pleading guilty, what happens at trial, appealing, rights as a prisoner, and serving time. They also translated the final report to Spanish and Portuguese for their local partners.

In October 2017, many of the firms participated in a launch event where firms from Brazil and Uruguay presented the report together with TrustLaw and Fair Trials International.

 Fair Trials International and Hogan & Lovells, Fontan Balestra Asociados, Mattos Filho, Central Law,  White & Case, Rodrigo, Elias & Medrano and Guyer & Regules have been nominated for the “Collaboration Award” at the 2018 TrustLaw Awards.