Legal Dictionary

in absentia

Definition of in absentia


    Latin in + absentia, absence


in absentia (not comparable)

  1. While not present; while absent

    * The defendant was convicted in absentia after fleeing during the trial.

Further reading

In absentia is Latin for "in the absence". In legal use it usually pertains to a defendant's right to be present in court proceedings in a criminal trial.

In absentia in common law legal systems

In common law legal systems, conviction of a person in absentia, that is in a trial in which they are not present to answer the charges, is held to be a violation of natural justice. Specifically, it violates the second principle of natural justice, audi alteram partem. By contrast in some civil law legal systems, such as Italy, trial in absentia is permitted.


Examples of people convicted in absentia are:

  • Fouzia Yousaf Gillani, wife of Current Prime Minster of Pakistan Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani. (Found guilty on 10 March 2001 for Fraud of over 171.163 Million Rupees Pakistan) has been cleard of all charges due to her husbands current political seat.
  • Cesare Battisti, thriller author and former member of the Italian militant group Armed Proletarians for Communism, sentenced to life. (Arrested on March 18, 2007 in Brazil.)
  • Krim Belkacem, Algerian Berber resistance fighter and politician. (Assassinated on October 18, 1970 in West Germany.)
  • Heinrich Boere, a Dutch or German convicted by a Dutch court in 1949 of murders on the part of the World War II German occupation authorities in the Netherlands. German courts refused to extridite Boere to the Netherlands due to his possibly having German citizenship.
  • Martin Bormann, Nazi official and Hitler's private secretary, sentenced to death at the Nuremberg war crimes trials. (Disappeared on May 2, 1945. Remains were uncovered in late 1972 in West Berlin.)
  • Dési Bouterse, Suriname's former military leader, sentenced to 16 years in prison and fined $2.18 million in the Netherlands for cocaine trafficking.
  • Ahmed Chalabi, former Iraqi oil minister, convicted in Jordan for bank fraud.
  • Ira Einhorn, anti-war activist and murderer, who challenged his conviction in Pennsylvania. (Escaped to Europe, but was extradited from France back to the US on July 20, 2001.)
  • John Factor, a British-born American gangster and con man, charged with securities fraud in England and tried and sentenced to 24 years in prison in absentia after fleeing back to the United States.
  • Charles de Gaulle, sentenced first to four years in prison and later to death in 1940 for treason against the Vichy Regime.
  • Mengistu Haile Mariam, former dictator sentenced to death in Ethiopia for genocide.
  • Jamal Jafaar Mohammed, sentenced to death by a Kuwaiti court for the 1983 Kuwait bombings. He is currently serving in Iraq's parliament as a member of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Islamic Dawa Party.
  • Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, sentenced to death in Jordan. (Killed on June 7, 2006 in Iraq.)
  • Andrew Luster, convicted of date rape after fleeing mid-trial.
  • Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, convicted in the US after fleeing.
  • Bernardo Provenzano, Sicilian Mafia boss convicted of numerous murders during his 42 years as a fugitive.
  • Michael Townley, Chilean DINA agent, has been convicted in 1993 by an Italian court in carrying out the 1975 Rome murder attempt on Bernardo Leighton.[2] (Currently living under the United States Federal Witness Protection Program.)
  • Shalom Weiss, sentenced to the longest federal prison term in United States history for fraud, money laundering and other crimes. (Extradited by Austria on June 20, 2002.)
  • Irakli Okruashvili, Defense Minister of Georgia from 2004 to 2006 and a personal friend of Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili. Okruashvili returned to prominence when he formed an opposition party to the Georgian government and accused it of corruption and plotting assasinations. He was arrested days later on charges of extortion, bribe taking, and abuse of power, and released on $6 million bail pending trial. He flew to Europe, supposedly to seek medical treatment, but tried to find political asylum. He was denied asylum in Germany, but received it in France, which refused an extradition request from Georgia. He was tried In absentia, found guilty, and sentenced to 11 years imprisonment.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


1.     lex fori
2.     landed property
3.     lex situs
4.     respondent
5.     default judgment
6.     tort law
7.     living will
8.     lex causae
9.     law
10.     salacious