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US Secret Evidence Erodes Fair Trial Rights

Evidence suggests US authorities deliberately conceal the facts about how they found information in a criminal case and may be doing so regularly, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Withholding these facts to cover up investigative practices, including potentially illegal ones, harms defendants’ rights and impedes justice for human rights violations.

The 77-page report “Dark Side: Secret Origins of Evidence in US Criminal Cases,” documents the use of alternative explanations for how evidence was found, a practice known as “parallel construction.” This practice could prevent courts from scrutinizing the legality of questionable investigative methods, including surveillance. Such scrutiny can deter misconduct, since judges normally bar illegally obtained evidence from trial. “Covering up how evidence was originally found deliberately hoodwinks defendants and judges, severely weakening constitutional fair trial rights,” said Sarah St Vincent, researcher on US surveillance at Human Rights Watch. “If the government is allowed to violate the US Constitution’s protections and then cover its tracks, this could undermine human rights for people whose liberty is at stake, or anyone else subjected to illegal government surveillance or other unlawful procedures.”

Read more: Human Rights Watch,

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