Fair Trials in Europe - Bachelor

Undergraduate course

Course description

Objectives and Content

The course aims to provide the students with a thorough knowledge and understanding of the requirements of a fair trial according to the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) and the European Union Carter of Fundamental Rights (CFR).

Firstly, some preliminary topics are given attention; the historical and philosophical background of the right to a fair trial, the aims and purposes of the right, and the relationship between the right to a fair trial and other human and fundamental rights. The relevance and importance of the right to a fair trial in Europe is also underscored, i.e. the relationship between the right to a fair trial and the rule of law-requirement and the principle of separation of powers. In order to provide for perspectives on the right to a fair trial in the European legal instruments, the two main directions in European national criminal procedure are presented; the inquisitorial (continental) and the adversary (common law-jurisdictions).

Secondly, an overview is given of the legal systems and institutions responsible for upholding the right to a fair trial in Europe (the Council of Europe and the European Union). Attention is also drawn to the relationship and interplay between the protection of the right to a fair trial in the ECHR and the CFR.

Thirdly, the course focuses on the content of the right to a fair trial. ECHR Article 6 is given considerable attention. The field of application of the right, the fair trial guarantees which apply in civil cases and in criminal cases; the right to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time, and the right to an independent and impartial tribunal established by law. In addition the fair trial principles established by the case law of the European Court of Human Rights are discussed, e.g. the right of access to court, the principles of effective court proceedings, legal certainty and finality of judgments (res judicata), equality of arms, the right to an adversarial process and disclosure of evidence, to appear in person at one¿s trial and a reasoned decision.

In line with the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, the fair trial rights in criminal cases are dealt with thoroughly: e.g. the right to silence and freedom from self incrimination, limits on police methods of investigation, right to access to the case file, the different aspects of the presumption of innocence, the principle of immediacy and its exceptions, and limitations on the use of illegal obtained evidence during trial. In addition, the specific minimum defence rights established in Article 6 No. 3 are discussed (right to be informed promptly, in a language which the accused understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him, right to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of defence, right to defend oneself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing or, if he has not a sufficient means to pay for legal assistance, to be given it free when the interests of justice so require, right to examine or have examined witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him and the right to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court.

Fair trial rights established in other provisions are also part of the course, i.e. Article 2 of Protocol 7 to the Convention (right of appeal in criminal matters), Article 3 (compensation for wrongful conviction) and Article 4 (right not to be tried or punished twice).

The parallel fair trial rights established in CFR will be discussed systematically together with the discussion of the ECHR rights in order to underscore the relationship and interplay between the rights. Special emphasis is given to Article 47 (right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial), Article 48 (presumption of innocence and right of defence and Article 50 (right not to be tried or punished twice in criminal proceedings for the same criminal offence).

Learning Outcomes


Having completed the course, the students will have acquired thorough knowledge and understanding of the European legal standards on what constitutes a fair trial.


The students will be able to carry out independent analysis of what constitutes a fair trial in criminal, administrative and civil proceedings in Europe. In addition to conduct or appear as an actor in civil and criminal trials within the various legal systems in Europe, securing that the right to a fair trial is respected.

The students will also be in position to carry out critical assessments and contribute to the ever-ongoing development of European fair trial standards.

General competence

Having completed the course, the students are able to work independently or as part of a team on matters involving the requirements to a fair trial in Europe, both on a theoretical and practical level.

ECTS Credits


Level of Study


Semester of Instruction


Place of Instruction

Faculty of Law, University of Bergen
Required Previous Knowledge

Two years of law studies including basic knowledge of human rights law.

Students enrolled in the 5-year master in law programme must have completed the course JUS221 Rettsstaten. International exchange students must also enroll in the course JUS2307 Introduction to European Human Rights unless they have already completed a course on European Human Rights at their home university.

Recommended Previous Knowledge
Good level of English language.
Credit Reduction due to Course Overlap

No overlap with other courses at the Faculty of Law.

This course combines well with

  • JUS2307 Introduction to European Human Rights
  • JUS2320 Comparing Legal Cultures in Europe
Access to the Course

The course is available for students:

  • admitted to the five-year master programme in law
  • exchange students at the Faculty of Law

The pre-requirements may still limit certain students' access to the course

Teaching and learning methods
Lectures, moot court practices.
Compulsory Assignments and Attendance

Compulsory attendance at lectures/seminars.

Participation on moot court practices. One passed moot court practice is a prerequisite to sit the exam.

Forms of Assessment

Four-hour digital exam.

Exam question: English

Answer: English

Grading Scale
A - E for passed, F for failed.
Assessment Semester
Reading List
The reading list will be ready 1 December for the spring semester.
Course Evaluation
According to the administrative arrangements for course evaluation at the Faculty of Law.
Examination Support Material

See section 3-5 of the Supplementary Regulations for Studies at the Faculty of Law at the University of Bergen.

In addition: European Convention on Human Rights, copy supplied by the Faculty of Law (only).

Special regulations about dictionaries

  • According to the Regulations for Studies, one dictionary is permitted support material during the examination. Bilingual dictionaries containing for example both Norwegian-English and English-Norwegian are considered as one dictionary.
  • Bilingual dictionaries to/from the same two languages - for example Norwegian-English/English-Norwegian - in two different volumes are also considered as one dictionary (irrespective of publisher or edition).
  • Dictionaries as described above cannot be combined with any other types of dictionaries.
  • Any kind of combination which makes up more than two physical volumes is forbidden.
  • In case a student has a special need for any other combination than the above mentioned, such combination has to be clarified with/approved by the course coordinator minimum two weeks before the exam. Students who have not been granted permission to have a special combination minimum two weeks before the exam will be subject to the usual regulations (section 3-5) about examination support materials.
Programme Committee
The Academic Affairs Committee (Studieutvalget) at the Faculty of Law is responsible for ensuring the material content, structure and quality of the course.
Course Coordinator
Professor Jon Petter Rui
Course Administrator
The Faculty of Law¿s section for students and academic affairs (Studieseksjonen) is responsible for administering the programme.