Part III The Right to Justice, C Restrictions on Rules of Law Justified By Action to Combat Impunity, Principle 23 Restrictions on Prescription
Edited By: Frank Haldemann, Thomas Unger
- Human rights — Time limitations (and jurisdiction) — Statutory limitations — Truth and Reconciliation Commissions
Principle 23 deals with statutory limitations (prescription, in French) aimed at protecting defendants from stale claims that might be difficult to counter. Statutory limitations refer to legal norms that regulate the effects of the passage of time in domestic systems. In criminal law, they provide for a maximum timeframe, or prescription period, within which criminal proceedings can be instituted or sentences enforced. The passage of time makes the gathering of evidence more difficult and may also reduce the effectiveness of criminal prosecution. Significant delays in criminal action may thus impair the accused’s right to a fair trial. Furthermore, criminal proceedings tend to lose legitimacy as time passes. After providing a contextual and historical background on Principle 23, this chapter discusses its theoretical framework and how the statutory limitations have been applied in practice under multilateral treaties, domestic legislation and case-law. It also examines the practice of United Nations organs.