DIGNITY at TRIAL: Enhancing procedural safeguards for suspects with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities
On the 25th of June the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights will hold the international conference “Dignity at Trial”. The background of the event is a two year research project on enhancing the procedural rights of suspects and accused with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities. The conference aims at outlining the way forward and defining the next steps. It will give the floor to the project partners, high level national and international experts as well as political actors.
The results and recommendations of the project are compiled in the Handbook "Dignity at Trial". The Handbook is available for download.
Persons with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities who have come into conflict with the law, face a particularly high risk of not being subjected to a fair trial. In many cases, their vulnerability due to their illness or disability is not identified in due time. Their procedural rights, particularly their right to information, their right of access to a lawyer, their right to medical assistance, and the protection of their privacy are often not adequately ensured. For persons with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities deprivation of liberty has far reaching consequences; in many cases the imposed measures also pose questions of proportionality. At the same time the authorities are equally confronted with a range of challenges when it comes to criminal proceedings against persons with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities.
The Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights has addressed this issue, together with project partners from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Slovenia. The interdisciplinary project team has assessed the implementation of the EC Recommendation on safeguards for vulnerable persons suspected or accused in criminal proceedings in all five countries in a two-year research project, funded by the European Commission.
The overall aim of the Recommendation is to guarantee a fair trial for the vulnerable suspects, this means in particular ensuring they understand what is occurring and their effective participation. The project focuses on the criminal procedure, which spans from the moment of suspicion until the final judgement. The penal sentence and the compulsory treatment are not subject to the research; pre-trial detention and preventive detention for medical assessment, on the contrary, are included.
The project aims to strengthen the procedural rights of suspected and accused persons with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities in criminal proceedings through awareness raising and capacity building of the professional actors involved. Furthermore it contributes to enhancing national and international interdisciplinary networks.
The research results were summarised in a Handbook for professional stakeholders, in particular police, judges, lawyers, prosecutors, medical staff, penitentiary staff and social workers. It is based on the findings in all five countries and includes the data from 62 interviews with persons with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities that have undergone a criminal procedure as well as 42 interviews with representatives of the above mentioned professional stakeholders.