On 20 September 2023 in New York, on the margins of the Twenty-second Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) Coordinating Committee, and thirteenth GCTF Ministerial Plenary Meetings, the co-chairs Italy and Nigeria of the GCTF Criminal Justice and Rule of Law (CJ-ROL) Working Group presented the findings of a survey on the right to a fair trial for defendants in terrorism-related cases implemented by the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law’s (IIJ) Counter-Terrorism Platform for Human Rights Engagement (CT PHARE), the new EU funded CT Facility.
This survey was launched on April 2023 in Malta and focuses on the application of the non-binding recommended good practices set out in the GCTF’s Hague Memorandum Good Practice 5 on supporting the right of the accused to a fair trial with adequate legal representation and Rabat Memorandum Good Practice 7 on providing for the lawful exercise of pre-trial detention of terrorist suspects. It has been submitted to GCTF Members and UN Member States to gain insights into how these Good Practices are implemented in terrorism trials worldwide.
In the seven years since the Hague Memorandum was endorsed, for example, the extent to which this Good Practice has been successfully implemented remains unclear. Fair trial rights are vulnerable to abuse in terrorism cases where defendants may lack the means to provide for their defence. Moreover, given the nature of terrorism-related offenses and the impact they can have on a State, there is the potential for many to call for the abrogation of the rights of the accused for reasons of national security, public interest, or public morals.
Therefore, the four experts involved in the side event – Ms. Doreen Chen, Judge Ana Maria Salinas De Frias, Dr. Anne Charbod, and Prof. Darin Johnson – highlighted through case studies the main findings, including gaps and challenges, to evaluate the accused’s right when prosecuting terrorism cases and establish areas for improvement. These findings will be published in an analytical summary report in December 2023.
In closing, Italy and Nigeria Co-Chairs, as well as the IIJ reiterated the main goal of the survey which is to raise awareness regarding persistent human rights challenges in pre-trial detention and the right to a fair trial in counter-terrorism cases. They also encouraged further participation to gather more data as the deadline has been extended until the end of November 2023.
The links to the survey are accessible here: