Validity Foundation - Mental Disability Advocacy Centre

Procedural and fair trial rights for defendants with disabilities in Europe

By Axel Le Ho 24th May 2024


The ENABLE project is focused on developing partnerships between persons with disabilities, organisations of persons with disabilities and lawyers, judges, prosecutors, and social services providers across EU countries to enhance the accessibility and fairness of criminal proceedings for defendants with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities. As the project enters its final few months, we are pleased to announce that an international conference will be organised on 17 June in Madrid, hosted by Pléna Inclusion and Validity, that will look into procedural and fair trial rights of persons with disabilities participating in criminal proceedings in Europe and beyond.

The project is a joint effort of nine organisations across eight countries. Since the initiation of the project in 2022, partners have been working to research and document the experiences of persons with disabilities in criminal proceedings, and have designed specialised tools that will aim to improve the provision of reasonable and procedural accommodations. Ultimately, the project aims to enhance the status of defendants with disabilities in ensuring everyone has the right to a fair trial.

Ion Schidu, Validity Project Manager, notes:

“The research we’ve delivered within the project have clearly showed that among the biggest obstacles faced currently by defendants with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities participating in criminal proceedings in EU, are the denial of the right to stand in a trial and provide testimonies, and the failure to detect disability-specific procedural accommodations to guarantee a fair trial.”

Since initiating the project, consortium partners in Bulgaria, Czechia, Spain, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia have been working closely with criminal justice professionals, human rights experts, organisations and persons with disabilities to improve knowledge on these barriers and to disseminate promising practices. Click here to read national briefing papers and to access Easy to Read summary versions.

One of the unique outputs of the project will be the publication of national disability bench books. These bench books will provide practical guidelines for criminal justice professionals designed to be used in cases involving persons with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities. The bench books will provide concrete guidance on how to identify and implement required procedural accommodations, and will offer recommendations to improve participation through the provision of reasonable accommodations in the pre-trial and trial stages of criminal proceedings.

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The results of the ENABLE project will be showcased in Madrid on 17 June. Various sessions will be organised at the conference focusing on the barriers that persons with disabilities face in criminal cases, as well as on the consequences when access to justice are denied. Click here to read the agenda of the event.

Participants will learn about the promising practices that are already being applied in various jurisdictions, and will have the opportunity to discuss further reforms needed to improve outcomes on access to justice for persons with disabilities. Follow this link to sign up for the event.

Full name of the project: Enabling inclusion and access to justice for defendants with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities (101056701 – ENABLE – JUST-2021-JACC). This project is co-funded by the European Union. Follow this link for more information.


This project is co-funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Commission. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.