On 7-9 July 2020 the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law (IIJ), together with the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), convened online a First Expert Meeting on Remote Access to Judicial Proceedings in Terrorism Cases – a topic which has particular resonance in light of the COVID-19 global health pandemic. This timely meeting gathered more than 30 defence counsels, prosecutors, judges and information system experts from Africa, Middle East, Europe, the United States and international organisations to discuss the challenges and recommendations for the use of technology in conducting remote hearings.
Practitioners explored various country-level judicial responses to remote hearings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Perspectives and lessons learned were shared on many cutting edge topics, including: the requisite legal framework to facilitate the use of technology in remote hearings; challenges and recommendations for conducting remote hearings from the perspectives of the judiciary and defence; and different models of existing and developing new information technology systems used for remote hearings and case management. Participants provided valuable recommendations and good practices for consideration for a draft IIJ-UNODC recommendations document and next steps for this innovative workstream.
The IIJ looks forward to continuing this important partnership with the UNODC’s Terrorism Prevention Branch with a second expert meeting to be held in autumn 2020, which will provide an opportunity to review the draft recommendations. Following the publication of the recommendations, the partners will then launch a series of regional pilot programmes for criminal justice practitioners in West Africa, East Africa and the MENA region.