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6 Right to be Tried without Undue Delay

From: The Right to a Fair Trial in International Law

Amal Clooney, Philippa Webb

From: Oxford Public International Law (http://opil.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved.date: 18 September 2021

Subject(s):
Right to a trial within a reasonable time — Human rights remedies — Reservations and exceptions — Waiver — Remedies — Remedies and costs

This chapter examines the right to be tried without undue delay. The speed of a trial is integral to its overall fairness. The longer a trial takes, the longer that the defendant, still presumed innocent, is in legal jeopardy; the longer that they may be kept in pre-trial detention; and the greater the risk that witnesses may forget details or evidence may disappear. However, despite the importance of efficiency in criminal justice, chronic delays in trials in domestic jurisdictions have been widely reported. In fact, the right to be tried without undue delay is one of the most litigated aspects of the right to a fair trial. Unlike some violations, delayed proceedings are relatively easy to prove; the question is what constitutes a delay that is ‘undue’ under international human rights law. There is no global time limit for a criminal proceeding and each case must be assessed on its facts, taking into account its complexity; the conduct of the defendant, the prosecution, and other state authorities; and—for most international bodies—the prejudice caused to the defendant by the delay.

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