DIGNITY at TRIAL: Enhancing procedural safeguards for suspects with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities

About the Project

Persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities are among the most vulnerable groups of suspects in criminal proceedings. If they come into conflict with the law, they face a particularly high risk of not experiencing a fair trial. In many cases, their vulnerability due to their illness or disability is not identified in due time or not considered. Their procedural rights, particularly their right to information, their right to access a lawyer, and their right to medical assistance, in particular during deprivation of liberty, are often not adequately ensured.

The Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Fundamental and Human Rights (LBI-GMR) has addressed this issue, together with four European project partners, the Bulgarian Helsinki Commitee in Bulgaria, the League of Human Rights in the Czech Republik, the Organisation Mental Health Perspectives in Lithuania and the Peace Institute in Slovenia.

In a two year pilot research project (2016-2018) the team assessed the implementation of the EC Recommendation on safeguards for vulnerable persons suspected or accused in criminal proceedings in all five countries and identified structural challenges and good practices. The overall aim of the Recommendation is to guarantee a fair trial for vulnerable suspects, which means, in particular, ensuring they understand and effectively participate in criminal proceedings.

The project focused on the criminal procedure, which spans from the moment of suspicion until the conclusion of the proceedings. The penal sentence and the compulsory treatment were not subject to the research; pre-trial detention and preventive detention for medical assessment, on the contrary, were included. The project aimed to strengthen the procedural rights of suspected and accused persons with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities in criminal proceedings through awareness raising and capacity building of the professional actors involved. Furthermore, it contributed to enhancing national and international interdisciplinary networks.

The Handbook “Dignity at Trial”, which was elaborated during the project, draws on broad stakeholder involvement in all five countries that allowed the researchers to include all perspectives, to detect systematic problems and to include first-hand experiences and recommendations of persons with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities. It aims at enhancing the awareness on the challenges faced by persons with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities undergoing a criminal procedure and providing some useful recommendations and tools.

The results and recommendations of the project are compiled in the Handbook “Dignity at Trial” and were presented at the final conference “Dignity at Trial” on 25th June 2018 in Vienna.

The handbook, the folder of the project and the key findings of the national reports are available for download.

In the Handbook, you find:

  • Experiences of persons with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities
  • The main findings of the comparative report on the five countries
  • Criteria for the identification of good practice
  • Practical recommendations for professional stakeholders
  • Recommendations for policymakers
  • Recommendations for the European Union
  • A checklist on indications for a person’s potential intellectual or psychosocial disabilities
  • A documentation sheet about procedural rights for the police interrogation
  • A documentation sheet about procedural rights for the court hearing

The “key findings” contain a short summary of the National Baseline Studies in Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Slovenia. The full version if the Austrian Baseline Study is available in German.

Project Data

Country: Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Slovenia
Persons involved: Barbara Linder, Nora Katona
Contact persons: Nora Katona
Lead Organisation: Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Fundamental and Human Rights (LBI-GMR)
Partner Organisations: Bulgarian Helsinki Commitee (Bulgaria), League of Human Rights (Czech Republic), Organisation Mental Health Perspectives (Lithuania), Peace Institute (Slovenia)
Project start: 08/2016
Project end: 07/2018
Project completed: Yes
Funded by: European Commission, Directorate General Justice
Programme Line LBI-GMR: Human Dignity and Public Security


  • This project is implemented with the financial support of the Justice Programme of the European Union. The contents of this website are the sole responsibility of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Fundamental and Human Rights (LBI-GMR) and its project partners and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Commission.