ODIHR conducts trial-monitoring activities in an effort to assist participating States in developing policies and reforms that enhance respect for the rule of law and human rights. While these activities are aimed at having a long-term positive impact on the way justice systems function, monitoring trials can also have an immediate impact, as the presence of observers can encourage compliance with national and international fair-trial standards in an individual trial or series of cases and ultimately increase transparency and public confidence in the judiciary.
An example is ODIHR's monitoring of trials stemming from the violence that followed the March 2008 presidential election in Armenia. In the final report on the project, ODIHR outlined a number of shortcomings in how the legal system handled the cases and also offered recommendations to assist the Armenian authorities in their efforts to improve the administration of criminal justice in the country. This formed the basis for a number of follow-up activities ODIHR is carrying out with the Armenian authorities.
In addition to carrying out its own trial-monitoring activities, ODIHR also plays an important role in supporting similar activities conducted by OSCE field operations. For this purpose, ODIHR facilitates annual meetings on trial monitoring for all OSCE field operations carrying out programmes that monitor trials or legal systems in general. ODIHR used the experiences shared at these meetings to draft a reference manual for trial-monitoring practitioners.
To ensure that the knowledge and experience gained over recent years is available to future trial-monitoring programmes, ODIHR is gathering, storing, and sharing knowledge about how to monitor trials, and developing an information- and knowledge-management system and a legal database. These tools are meant to be utilized by trial monitors in their day-to-day work. They will also facilitate ODIHR’s training of partner organizations in the area of trial monitoring and thus ensure sustainability of related programmes.
The Office is expanding its traditional scope of monitoring from criminal proceedings to administrative justice, as administrative courts emerge in many new democracies and OSCE field operations start monitoring administrative proceedings. Work has begun on new guidelines for monitoring administrative justice.