Helsinki Committee for Human Rights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Testimony

The words "testimony" and "testify" both derive from the Latin word testis, referring to the notion of a disinterested third-party witness.

In the law, testimony is a form of evidence that is obtained from a witness who makes a solemn statement or declaration of fact. Testimony may be oral or written, and it is usually made by oath or affirmation under penalty of perjury. To be admissible in court and for maximum reliability and validity, written testimony is usually witnessed by one or more persons who swear or affirm its authenticity also under penalty of perjury. Unless a witness is testifying as an expert witness, testimony in the form of opinions or inferences is generally limited to those opinions or inferences that are rationally based on the perceptions of the witness and are helpful to a clear understanding of the witness' testimony.

Legitimate expert witnesses with a genuine understanding of legal process and the inherent dangers of false or misleading testimony refrain from making statements of fact. They also recognize that they are in fact not witnesses to an alleged crime or other event in any way, shape or form. Their expertise is in the examination of evidence or relevant facts in the case. They should make no firm judgement or claim or accusation about any aspect of the case outside their narrow range of expertise. They also should not allege any fact they can't immediately and credibly prove scientifically.

For example, a hair sample from a crime scene entered as evidence by the prosecution should be described by an expert witness as "consistent with" a sample collected from the defendant, rather than being described as a "match". A wide range of factors make it physically impossible to prove for certain that two hair or tissue samples came from a common source.

Having not actually witnessed the defendant at the scene, the expert witness can not state for a fact that the sample is a match to the defendant, particularly when the samples were collected at different times and different places by different collectors using different collection methods. Ultimately, the testimony of expert witnesses is regarded as supportive of evidence rather than evidence in and of itself, and a good defense attorney will point out that the expert witness is not in fact a witness to anything, but rather an observer.

When a party uses the testimony of a witness to show proof, the opposing party often attempts to impeach the witness. This may be done using cross-examination, calling into question the witness's competence, or by attacking the character or habit of the witness. So, for example, if a witness testifies that he remembers seeing a person at 2:00 pm on a Tuesday and his habit is to be at his desk job on Tuesday, then the opposing party would try to impeach his testimony related to that event.

Some published oral or written autobiographical narratives are considered "testimonial literature" particularly when they present evidence or first person accounts of human rights abuses, violence and war, and living under conditions of social oppression. This usage of the term comes originally from Latin America and the Spanish term "testimonio" when it emerged from human rights tribunals, truth commissions, and other international human rights instruments in countries such as Chile and Argentina. One of the most famous, though controversial, of these works to be translated into English is I, Rigoberta Menchu. The autobiographies of Frederick Douglass can be considered among the earliest significant English-language works in this genre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION TO HOLD HEARING ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING AND TRANSNATIONAL ORGANIZED CRIME

November 2, 2011

10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

Please join the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe for a hearing that explores the nexus between Transnational Organized Crime and Human Trafficking.

Organized Crime has evolved to meet the challenges of globalization and modern technology. In this evolution major international criminal organizations and smaller highly specialized groups of criminal entrepreneurs have found new ways to expand their operations and exploit human beings into slavery. To meet these challenges new national and international strategies have been placed into action, but their results remain to be seen. This continues the Helsinki Commission’s hearing series on new fronts in human trafficking. This hearing will focus on: (1) the evolving nature of Transnational Organized Crime, (2) the role of major international organized crime groups and smaller organized criminal syndicates in human trafficking, (3) identified trends, and (4) strategies to combat these organizations and prevent the trafficking of human beings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright * Helsinki Committee for Human Rights 2011

 

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