Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is a crucial provision that safeguards the right to a fair trial. It is a fundamental human right and has a significant impact on the legal systems of the member states of the Council of Europe. Article 6 is divided into several paragraphs, each addressing different aspects of the right to a fair trial.
Article 6 – Right to a Fair Trial
1. In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law. Judgment shall be pronounced publicly but the press and public may be excluded from all or part of the trial in the interest of morals, public order or national security in a democratic society, where the interests of juveniles or the protection of the private life of the parties so require, or to the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice.
2. Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.
3. Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights:
(a) to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him;
(b) to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence;
(c) to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing or, if he has not sufficient means to pay for legal assistance, to be given it free when the interests of justice so require;
(d) to examine or have examined witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him;
(e) to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court.
In civil and criminal matters: In the determination of civil rights and obligations or any criminal charge against them, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law. This paragraph establishes the right to a fair trial in both civil and criminal matters.
Presumption of innocence: Everyone charged with a criminal offence is presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law. This principle places the burden of proof on the prosecution and ensures that the accused is not considered guilty unless proven otherwise.
Right to be informed: Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the right to be informed promptly, in a language they understand, of the nature and cause of the accusation against them. This ensures that the accused knows the details of the charges.
Right to a defence: Everyone has the right to defend themselves through legal assistance of their choosing or, if they lack sufficient means to pay for legal assistance, to be provided with it free of charge when the interests of justice so require.
Cross-examination and witnesses: Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the right to examine or have examined witnesses against them and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on their behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against them. This guarantees the right to cross-examine and present evidence in one's defence.
Fair and public hearing: The hearings must be fair and public, except in exceptional circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice. This paragraph ensures transparency and openness in legal proceedings.
Judgment and reasons: Everyone is entitled to a reasoned judgment delivered publicly, except in cases where the interest of juveniles requires otherwise or the proceedings concern matrimonial disputes or the guardianship of children. This ensures that judgments are clear and that reasons are given for decisions.
Review of conviction or sentence: Everyone convicted of a criminal offence has the right to have the conviction or sentence reviewed by a higher tribunal according to law. This allows for the possibility of appeal or review of a conviction or sentence.
Principles of equality: The last paragraph states that the exercise of these rights and freedoms shall not prejudice the fairness of the proceedings.
Article 6 of the ECHR is a cornerstone of the European human rights framework, ensuring that individuals are afforded due process and a fair trial in both civil and criminal matters. It plays a crucial role in protecting the rights of individuals facing legal proceedings within the jurisdiction of the Council of Europe member states.