Published: 1 Dec 2017 | By Rebecca Shaeffer
Fair trial rights without the trials?
Trial waiver systems in Russia, Ukraine and the South Caucasus
The face of criminal justice, in countries all around the world and in all kinds of different legal systems, has been undergoing a quiet revolution in the past 25 years. No longer are convictions won solely through judicial deliberation after a public airing of evidence. Instead, plea bargaining, incentive structures for guilty pleas, abbreviated trials, cooperation agreements, and other forms of ‘trial waiver systems’ have come to supplement and in some cases, to all but replace trials in many jurisdictions. Fair Trials has recently conducted research into the use of trial waiver systems in 90 jurisdictions worldwide, and has documented a 300% growth in the existence of such systems across the globe since 1990. It also demonstrated a wide variety in procedure, incidence and consequence of these systems. Some offer sufficient procedural protections for defendants, and provide promising opportunities to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of justice systems and to reduce human rights violations related to excessive case processing times and pre-trial detention. Unfortunately, the avoidance of the full procedural guarantees of trial may also undermine key protections for human rights and the rule of law, in ways that have not always been fully appreciated.