Rights of suspect and accused
The EU works towards achieving common minimum standards of procedural rights in criminal proceedings to ensure that the basic rights of suspects and accused persons are protected sufficiently.
Common minimum standards are necessary for judicial decisions taken by one EU country to be recognised by the others, according to the principle of mutual recognition.
For mutual recognition to operate well there must be measures promoting mutual trust.
To achieve such standards and create the basis for mutual trust, a Roadmap on procedural rights was adopted in 2009 by the Justice Council proposing five legislative measures on a 'step by step' basis:
- the right to interpretation and translation ;
- the right to information about rights (Letter of Rights);
- the right to legal advice, before and at trial ;
- the right for a detained person to communicate with family members, employers and consular authorities ;
- the right to protection for vulnerable suspects ;
- a Green Paper on pre-trial detention.
The Commission works together with the Council and the European Parliament to implement the roadmap. Much progress has been made to date. Directives on interpretation and translation and on the right to information in criminal proceedings were adopted on 20 October 2010 and on 22 May 2012 respectively. The Commission has made a proposal on a Directive on the right of access to a lawyer in criminal proceedings and on the right to communicate upon arrest which is currently being discussed in the Council and the European Parliament.
A Green Paper on the application of EU criminal justice legislation in the field of detention was launched in June 2011. The Commission has received many replies to this green paper from Member States, authorities and many organisations.
Initiatives on the presumption of innocence, legal aid and special safeguards for vulnerable suspects and accused persons are planned for 2013.
When designing and implementing measures in this field, it is important for the EU to get the balance right between measures that protect such rights and those that facilitate the investigation and prosecution of crime.
European measures such as the Framework Decision on the European Arrest Warrant have generated a demand for the EU to consider fundamental rights, especially the rights of the defence, in a more concrete way.
The Commission originally proposed a draft Framework Decision which covered five basic rights in 2004, but six EU countries did not support it.
The subject however remains a priority: many EU countries, the European Parliament as well as practitioners and other experts strongly support it. The need for a measure of this sort was confirmed in the 2008 Université Libre de Bruxelles report on mutual recognition .