‘Too High’, ‘Too Low’, or ‘Just Fair Enough’?: Finding Legitimacy Through the Accused’s Right to a Fair Trial
Article by Joanna Nicholson, published in Journal of International Criminal Justice.
That an accused receives a fair trial is essential to the legitimacy of international criminal courts and tribunals. However, how best to interpret the right to a fair trial in order to maximize the legitimacy of international criminal courts and tribunals’ decision-making? Some argue that international criminal courts and tribunals should aspire to the highest standards of fairness and should aim to set an example for domestic courts in this regard. Others argue that the unique context within which international criminal courts and tribunals operate allows them, at times, to interpret the right to a fair trial in a way which falls below minimum international human rights standards. This article examines both of these positions and finds both to be problematic. Rather, the article argues that international criminal courts and tribunals should aim for a middle path, the ‘fair enough’ standard, when interpreting the right to a fair trial. In situations where a different standard than that found within international human rights law is applied, international criminal courts and tribunals should expend greater effort in being open and clear as to why this is so, and should take care in communicating this to their audience, including victims and the accused. By doing so, the legitimacy of their decision-making will be enhanced.
The article is a part of the symposium Balancing the Rights of Defendants and the Rights of Victims that was organized at PluriCourts in 2018. It is available on the Journal of International Criminal Justice website.