To what extent is the taking and use of neuroscientific evidence compatible with the rights enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights?


  • Petar Lozev



Criminal law is arguably among the most important parts of any system of law as its purpose is to counter serious forms of socially undesired behavior such as assault on one’s property, physical integrity and life. Therefore in order to fulfill the high expectations society has of it, it should be equipped with the best tools to find out the truth, determine who is guilty and either punish or send them to rehabilitation. To achieve these goals it has the power to gather all kinds of evidence and invade people’s liberties and private lives. These extensive prerogatives are controlled to a large extent, but not only, by the protection from the state’s intrusion into private life enshrined in human rights documents such as the right to fair trial and the right to privacy in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The protection granted to individuals in this way, however, is far from absolute and it is often reduced in the process of solving particularly important cases. Thus the answer to whether human rights are infringed can often be ambiguous, policy-driven and depend on the balancing of interests in the particular case.This paper endeavors to discuss whether the compulsory taking and use of neuroscientific evidence in the form of fMRI lie-detection and Guilty Knowledge Tests (‘GKT’ from now on) as well as Brain Fingerprinting (‘BF’ from now on) detection of existing knowledge from the defendant in criminal proceedings complies with the right to fair trial and particularly the right to silence which is part of it; and the right to privacy as enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.    


Case law:

Allan v United Kingdom ECHR (2002)

Fisher v United States, 425 U.S. 391 (1976)

Funke v France ECHR (1993)

Jalloh v Germany ECHR (2006)

John Murray v United Kingdom ECHR (1996)

Katz v United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967)

Kyllo v United States, 533 U.S. 27 (2001)

Niemietz v Germany ECHR (1992)

Peck v United Kingdom ECHR (2003)

Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757 (1966)

Saunders v United Kingdom ECHR (1996)

Serves v France ECHR (1997)

Von Hannover v Germany ECHR (2004)

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