European Court of Human Rights - case of Vidal v. Belgium (1992) (excerpts)

European Court of Human Rights - case of Vidal v. Belgium (1992) (excerpts)


33. As a general rule, it is for the national courts to assess

the evidence before them as well as the relevance of the evidence

which defendants seek to adduce (see, inter alia, the Barberà,

Messegué and Jabardo v. Spain judgment of 6 December 1988, Series A

no. 146, p. 31, para. 68). More specifically, Article 6 para. 3 (d)

(art. 6-3-d) leaves it to them, again as a general rule, to assess

whether it is appropriate to call witnesses, in the "autonomous"

sense given to that word in the Convention system (see, as the most

recent authority, the Asch v. Austria judgment of 26 April 1991,

Series A no. 203, p. 10, para. 25); it "does not require the

attendance and examination of every witness on the accused's behalf:

its essential aim, as is indicated by the words 'under the same

conditions', is a full 'equality of arms' in the matter" (see the

Engel and Others v. the Netherlands judgment of 8 June 1976,

Series A no. 22, pp. 38-39, para. 91, and the above-mentioned

Bricmont v. Belgium judgment, Series A no. 158, p. 31, para. 89).

The Brussels Court of Appeal did not hear any witness, whether for

the prosecution or for the defence, before giving judgment.

The concept of "equality of arms" does not, however, exhaust

the content of paragraph 3 (d) of Article 6 (art. 6-3-d), nor that

of paragraph 1 (art. 6-1), of which this phrase represents one

application among many others (see, inter alia, the Delcourt v.

Belgium judgment of 17 January 1970, Series A no. 11, p. 15,

para. 28, and the Isgrò v. Italy judgment of 21 February 1991,

Series A no. 194-A, pp. 11-12, para. 31). The task of the European

Court is to ascertain whether the proceedings in issue, considered

as a whole, were fair as required by paragraph 1 (art. 6-1)

(see, inter alia, the Delta v. France judgment of 19 December 1990,

Series A no. 191, p. 15, para. 35).