Closing International Law’s Innocence Gap

Over the last decade, a growing number of countries have adopted new laws and mechanisms to address the absence of meaningful procedures to raise post-conviction claims of factual innocence. These legal and policy reforms have responded to a global surge of exonerations, which have been facilitated by the growth of national innocence organizations that increasingly work across borders. It is striking that these developments have occurred with little help from international law. We label this omission as international law’s innocence gap. The gap appears increasingly anomalous given how foundational innocence protection has become at the national level, as well as international law’s longstanding commitment to the presumption of innocence, fair trial and appellate procedures, and other criminal process guarantees. This paper argues that the time has come to close international law’s innocence gap by recognizing a new human right to assert post-trial claims of factual innocence.