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Legal professionals from seven OSCE field operations and representatives of 29 non-governmental organizations from the OSCE region exchanged experiences in trial monitoring at a meeting co-organized by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE Mission to Skopje from 24 to 26 April 2017 in Skopje.  

The Annual Trial Monitoring Meeting gathered a total of 54 participants, including 34 women and 20 men, who discussed challenges related to access to court and case files as well as the monitoring of high-profile cases and cases involving vulnerable groups, such as juveniles and ethnic minorities.

“Trial monitoring is key to assessing compliance with fair trial standards and detecting areas where further improvement is needed,” said Ambassador Nina Suomalainen, Head of the OSCE Mission to Skopje. She added that in 2016 the Mission monitored over 100 court hearings of high-profile cases, while a total of 450 criminal sessions were monitored through its implementing partner, the “All for Fair Trials” NGO coalition.

Maria Alcidi, Rule of Law Officer at ODIHR, stressed that “especially when the judiciary operates under enormous pressure from the media and the public, such as in the aftermath of particularly violent crimes, the monitoring of trials can provide an objective account of procedural fairness.”

“In post-conflict regions with ethnically divided societies the monitoring of war crime cases can be a powerful confidence-building measure,” said Gojko Pantović, National Legal Officer from the OSCE Mission to Serbia.

During the meeting, the ODIHR representative also shared with participants plans for future regional activities in the rule of law area, including work with judicial councils aiming to promote their role in upholding the independence of the judiciary.

ODIHR has been organizing Annual Trial Monitoring Meetings for more than a decade with the objective of establishing a platform for sharing good practices and challenges in trial monitoring for legal professionals from OSCE field operations and civil society. This is part of the Office’s broader work to better assist participating States in developing justice systems that abide by the rule of law and respect the right to a fair trial.

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