Delivering Remote Hearings & Safeguarding Rights During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Dr. Nasser Al Salamat, President of the Civil Authority, State Security Court, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, used his training to deliver remote hearings during the COVID-19 pandemic while ensuring full participation of all parties and safeguarding the defendant’s rights to a fair trial.
Judge Nasser presided over the first remote hearing in a terrorism case in Jordan, conducted via videoconference, with the prosecution, defence attorney and the justice panel located in the courthouse, and the defendant participating from the facility in which he was incarcerated. The IIJ – UNODC/TPB expert meeting assisted him in understanding the technical requirements needed to conduct a remote hearing while safeguarding the defendant’s right to a fair trial. Following the expert meeting, Judge Nasser met with the court’s information technology team and the incarceration facility staff to ensure that both the courtroom and the detention facility had sufficient audio and visual equipment to capture the proceedings from all angles, ensuring the parties’ ability to participate meaningfully in the proceedings.
Judge Nasser also worked with the IT team to enhance other technical features, including ways to save and record the proceedings, and to digitalise the case file, applying the techniques he learned during the expert meeting. Judge Nasser told the IIJ that he has since presided in more than ten remote hearings in terrorism trials, all delivered successfully in compliance with the rule of law, despite the challenges of the COVID-19 lockdown. The State Security Court’s success in convening remote hearings for terrorism trials led to an expansion of the approach to include remote hearings for gang crimes and other organised crimes during the pandemic period. Following this model, the Military Court of Jordan is currently considering a similar approach, provided the proper technical and legal infrastructure is available.