European Court of Human Rights - case of Hummatov v. Azerbaijan (2007) (excerpts)

European Court of Human Rights - case of Hummatov v. Azerbaijan (2007) (excerpts)

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140. The Court reiterates that the holding of court hearings in public constitutes a fundamental principle enshrined in Article 6 § 1 of the Convention. This public character protects litigants against the secret administration of justice with no public scrutiny; it is also one of the means whereby confidence in the courts can be maintained. By rendering the administration of justice transparent, publicity contributes to the achievement of the aim of Article 6 § 1, namely a fair trial, the guarantee of which is one of the fundamental principles of any democratic society (see Axen v. Germany, judgment of 8 December 1983, Series A no. 72, p. 12, § 25; Diennet v. France, judgment of 26 September 1995, Series A no. 325 A, pp. 14-15, § 33, and Moser v. Austria, no. 12643/02, § 93, 21 September 2006).

 141. The Court has previously held that, provided that there has been a public hearing at first instance, the absence of “public hearings” before higher courts may be justified by the special features of the proceedings at issue. Thus, for example, appellate proceedings involving only questions of law, as opposed to questions of fact, may comply with the requirements of Article 6 even if there was no public hearing at higher courts (see K.D.B. v. the Netherlands, judgment of 27 March 1998, Reports 1998 II, p. 630, § 39). On the other hand, the Court has held that, where an appellate court has to examine a case as to the facts and the law and make a full assessment of the issue of guilt or innocence, the requirement of publicity extends to the appellate hearings as well (see, for example, Tierce and Others v. San Marino, nos. 24954/94, 24971/94 and 24972/94, § 95, ECHR 2000 IX).