BHRC ran a specialist session on trial observations at this year’s Annual Bar and Young Bar Conference in London. The session was entitled Trial observations and show trials: the role and impact of trial monitoring. Chaired by Kirsty Brimelow QC, the speakers on the panel were Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh, Vice-Chair of the BHRC; Professor Mads Andenas, Chair of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and Alex Wilks, Principal Programme Lawyer at the IBA Human Rights Institute.
Photo credit: Jonathan Goldberg
Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh, commenced the session by giving an overview of the principles and practicalities of trial observations and highlighting best practice. Mads Andenas explained the importance of a good trial observation report and cited BHRC’s report of the trial of the former President of the Maldives as an example of a strong report that had influenced the UN working Group’s findings. Alex Wilks spoke of the real impact that trial observations can have, including an improved attitude of judges, a calming effect on the defence team and a sense of solidarity from those at risk of being unfairly tried. He showed a short film about trial observations that IBAHRI have been conducting in Venezuela.
The presentations were followed by a discussion with the audience covering issues such as how observers can achieve real independence, impartiality and objectivity and how to engage with local authorities in the country concerned.