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Fair Trials Manual - Second Edition

Every criminal trial tests the state’s commitment to justice and respect for human rights. Whatever the crime, if people are subjected to unfair trials, justice is not served for the accused, the victim of the crime or the public. Since 1998, the Amnesty International Fair Trial Manual has been an internationally trusted guide to fair trial standards for criminal cases. The second edition is the fully revised and updated text. Who is this book for? The Manual is a valuable source of information for: Anybody assessing the fairness of an individual criminal case or a criminal justice system Staff and volunteers of NGOs Lawyers and other legal professionals Trial observers Government officials Legislators International and regional bodies, including the UN Law schools and students Legal libraries The Fair Trial Manual presents straightforward information about international and regional legal standards in a user-friendly format. It is therefore suitable for a range of audiences, regardless of the reader’s level of legal knowledge. Paperback: 290 pages Size: 21cm x 1.7cm x 29.7cm


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About the new edition of the Fair Trial Manual

For many years, Amnesty International has received requests for an updated Fair Trial Manual from inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations, lawyers and other human rights defenders around the world. The second edition answers this call.

The new edition has been updated and revised to accommodate many developments since the first edition of 1998.

New standards have been adopted, for example relating to women deprived of their liberty and the right to access legal aid. (The first edition cites 65 legal standards; the second edition cites more than 140). There is growing recognition that many fair trial rights apply at all times and in all circumstances, even during states of emergency and armed conflicts. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in the USA, human rights, including fair trial rights, faced particular challenges. There is now more clarity that a state’s human rights obligations apply beyond its borders when it exercises control over a people or territory. Along with increased attention to discrimination within the criminal justice system, there is a growing consensus that fairness requires respect for the rights of victims in a manner consistent with the rights of the accused.

The Fair Trial Manual draws on Amnesty International’s standing as an authoritative voice for interpreting international human rights law. Each chapter has been authored and peer reviewed by experts in the fields of human rights and humanitarian law.

Contents of the new edition

Peer reviewed by leading legal experts in the field, the second edition is comprehensive and concise, and covers international and regional standards, including those applicable during armed conflict. It includes explanations and illustrative examples of how the standards have been interpreted by international and regional human rights bodies and courts. Despite breadth of coverage, the Fair Trial Manual is written in non-technical language, making it accessible to a wide audience.

A summary of chapters and topics covered is as follows:


International human rights standards and bodies

Definitions of terms

Further reading

Standards cited


Chapter 1 Right to liberty

Chapter 2 Rights of people in custody to information

Chapter 3 Right to legal counsel before trial

Chapter 4 Right of detainees to have access to the outside world

Chapter 5 Right to be brought promptly before a judge

Chapter 6 Right to challenge the lawfulness of detention

Chapter 7 Right to trial within a reasonable time or to release

Chapter 8 Right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defence

Chapter 9 Rights and safeguards during questioning

Chapter 10 Right to humane detention conditions and freedom from torture


Chapter 11 Right to equality before the law and courts

Chapter 12 Right to trial by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal

Chapter 13 Right to a fair hearing

Chapter 14 Right to a public hearing

Chapter 15 The presumption of innocence

Chapter 16 Right not to be compelled to incriminate oneself

Chapter 17 Exclusion of evidence obtained in violation of international standards

Chapter 18 Prohibition of retroactive application of laws and double jeopardy

Chapter 19 Right to be tried without undue delay

Chapter 20 Right to defend oneself in person or through counsel

Chapter 21 Right to be present at trial and appeal

Chapter 22 Right to call and examine witnesses

Chapter 23 Right to an interpreter and to translation

Chapter 24 Judgments

Chapter 25 Punishments (including conditions of imprisonment)

Chapter 26 Right to appeal and retrials


Chapter 27 Children

Chapter 28 Death penalty cases

Chapter 29 Special, specialized and military courts

Chapter 30 Right to compensation for miscarriages of justice

Chapter 31 Fair trial rights during states of emergency

Chapter 32 Fair trial rights in armed conflict

About the first edition

The first edition, published in 1998, was mainly written to assist Amnesty staff and members worldwide. However, as the first manual of its kind on the subject, it was enthusiastically received and used by NGOs, lawyers, judges, government officials, trial observers and staff of the UN and regional organizations across the globe. With the assistance of others, it was eventually published in 14 languages.

The UN and other international bodies have found it to be a valuable and user-friendly resource for delivering training and facilitating international workshops worldwide. It has been used in on-the-ground missions and in post-conflict situations, including by the UN. Bodies including the EU Commission have turned to the Fair Trial Manual for guidance in drafting international legal standards.

What people are saying about the Fair Trial Manual

“The new Amnesty International Fair Trial Manual is an invaluable resource on the vast array of issues and legal sources relating to fairness in criminal process. Comprehensive in its scope and user-friendly in its organization and presentation, the manual should be on the book shelf of anyone who cares about this complex and evolving area of international human rights law." - Elizabeth Andersen, Director, American Society of International Law

“The Manual has proved to be a very valuable source to have for checking issues ‘on the go’ within a short period of time, and as a reference in practical situations including trial observation.” – Mervat Rishmawi, Human Rights Consultant

"I used the first version of Fair Trials Manual and benefited from it a lot in my work as a judge in Jordan at the Court of Cassation, the Supreme Court Criminal Chamber. I have used it as a reference in different judgements. In short, this is an important reference guide for me and my fellow judges." – Mohamed Tarawneh, Supreme Court Judge, Jordan

"Amnesty's Fair Trial Manual was an essential guideline. It helped me to identify the political character of my trial by UNMIK and later by EULEX, as well as teaching me how to defend myself. The Fair Trial Manual helped me to reveal and resist the injustice of my trial." Albin Kurti, NGO leader in Kosovo. Read Albin Kurti’s full story on page 13 of WIRE

"When I found the Fair Trials Manual, I felt like I had struck gold. It explains the multitude of legal standards in a comprehensive, straightforward and accessible way." – Dr. Vivienne O’Connor, US Institute of Peace

Paperback: 290 pages
Publisher: Amnesty International UK (20 Apr. 2014)
Language: English
ISBN: 978-0862104849
Size: 21cm x 1.7cm x 29.7cm

Additional info

Additional info

ISBN 978-0862104849
Ethics Amnesty Branded, Educational


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