Individual human rights versus collective victims' rights in the criminal setting

Coleman, Michelle ORCID logoORCID: (2018) Individual human rights versus collective victims' rights in the criminal setting. In: Association of Human Rights Institutes (AHRI) 2018 Annual Conference, 07-08 Sept 2018, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom. . [Conference or Workshop Item]


As our understanding of human rights have become more developed two significant changes have occurred: individual human rights have become more defined while more groups of people have gained access to human rights. This is particularly true in the context of criminal law where individual defence rights, such as the presumption of innocence, have become more specifically defined while there is room for more participants, such as victims, to have roles in the criminal trial.

The presumption of innocence is a human right that has been incorporated in almost every international and regional human rights agreement since the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. It provides individuals who have been accused or suspected of crimes protection against the overwhelming powers of the state to punish. The presumption of innocence forces the prosecutor to provide sufficient proof of guilt before a conviction can be entered against a particular accused person.

However, as human rights and criminal law have progressed victims have been taking a more active role in criminal investigations and trials. Acting independently from the Prosecutor, victims’ rights help the victims participate in the trial, be informed, and help guarantee truth-telling function of the court or tribunal. While these rights belong to the individual, they function as collective rights often allowing hundreds of victims to be represented by and participate through a small team of lawyers.

This paper will discuss the tension between the individual human right of the presumption of innocence with the collective understanding of victims’ rights in international criminal proceedings. Both have essential functions in protecting the rule of law and preventing further human rights abuses, however, the two sets of rights are contradictory and frequently can come into conflict. The paper will explore whether the rights infringe on each other or whether balance may be achieved.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Research Areas: A. > School of Law
Item ID: 25361
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Depositing User: Michelle Coleman
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2018 16:04
Last Modified: 12 Feb 2019 12:11

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