International covenant
on civil and
political rights

23 August 2007
Original: ENGLISH

Ninetieth session
Geneva, 9 to 27 July 2007
General Comment No. 32
Article 14: Right to equality before courts and tribunals and to a fair trial


This general comment replaces general comment No. 13 (twenty-first session).

The right to equality before the courts and tribunals and to a fair trial is a key element
of human rights protection and serves as a procedural means to safeguard the rule of law. Article
14 of the Covenant aims at ensuring the proper administration of justice, and to this end
guarantees a series of specific rights.
Article 14 is of a particularly complex nature, combining various guarantees with
different scopes of application. The first sentence of paragraph 1 sets out a general guarantee of
equality before courts and tribunals that applies regardless of the nature of proceedings before
such bodies. The second sentence of the same paragraph entitles individuals to a fair and public
hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law, if they face any
criminal charges or if their rights and obligations are determined in a suit at law. In such
proceedings the media and the public may be excluded from the hearing only in the cases
specified in the third sentence of paragraph 1. Paragraphs 2 – 5 of the article contain procedural
guarantees available to persons charged with a criminal offence. Paragraph 6 secures a
substantive right to compensation in cases of miscarriage of justice in criminal cases. Paragraph
7 prohibits double jeopardy and thus guarantees a substantive freedom, namely the right to
remain free from being tried or punished again for an offence for which an individual has already
been finally convicted or acquitted. States parties to the Covenant, in their reports, should clearly
distinguish between these different aspects of the right to a fair trial.
Article 14 contains guarantees that States parties must respect, regardless of their
legal traditions and their domestic law. While they should report on how these guarantees are

Select target paragraph3