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Quotidiano di informazione – Anno 34 n° 316

A “letter of rights” to ensure fair trials for those deprived of their liberty Justice and Home Affairs

Posted by fidest press agency su venerdì, 25 novembre 2011

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Anyone suspected or accused of having committed a crime in the EU must be promptly informed of his or her procedural rights in easy-to-understand language, says a draft law endorsed by the Civil Liberties Committee on Wednesday. Any suspect who is then arrested or detained must also be given a written “letter of rights”, adds the draft, to which MEPs added the right to remain silent, the right to urgent medical care and the right to contact relatives.Today, citizens arrested and charged with a criminal offence cannot be certain that they will be properly informed of their rights everywhere in the EU. In some Member States, they receive only oral information about their procedural rights, whilst in others the information is given in writing, but is technical, complex and provided only on request. This draft directive, already agreed with Member State governments, provides EU-wide minimum standards to ensure the right to information in criminal proceedings.Any person suspected or accused of having committed a crime must be promptly provided with information on at least the following procedural rights:
· the right of access to a lawyer,
· any entitlement to legal advice free of charge and the conditions for obtaining it,
· the right to be informed of the accusation,
· the right to interpretation and translation; and
· the right to remain silent.
This information must be provided either orally or in writing and in simple and accessible language, taking into account any particular need of vulnerable people. A suspect must be informed of what criminal act he or she is suspected of having committed “at the latest” before the first official interview by the police. The authorities will be obliged to give anyone who is arrested or detained, or is the subject of a European Arrest Warrant, written information in the form of a “letter of rights”. In addition to the rights mentioned above, the letter must give the arrested person information on
· the right to access to the materials of the case,
· the right to have consular authorities and one person informed (for example, a family member or employer),
· the right of access to urgent medical assistance, and
· the right to know for how many hours/days he may be deprived of liberty before being brought before a judicial authority.
The letter of rights must also give basic information about any possibility to challenge the lawfulness of the arrest, to obtain a review of the detention, or to apply for provisional release. The draft law provides for an indicative model of such a letter of rights. Member States may amend this model to align it with their national rules and add further useful information.Member States must also ensure that a suspected or accused person or his or her lawyer has the right to challenge a failure or refusal by the competent authorities to provide the information required by this directive.
An important information right provided for in the draft law is the right to have access to the materials of the case which are essential to challenge the lawfulness of the arrest or detention effectively. Access to these materials may be refused only “if it may lead to serious risk to the life or fundamental rights of another person or if it is strictly necessary to safeguard an important public interest”, e.g. in cases where it risks prejudicing an ongoing investigation, or where it may seriously harm the national security of the Member State. The decision not to disclose these materials should be taken by a judicial authority or be at least subject to judicial review.This draft law should apply to suspected and accused persons regardless of their legal status, citizenship or nationality, MEPs add.
The draft law should be put to a vote by the full Parliament in December 2011 and then needs to be formally endorsed by the EU Council of Ministers. Once adopted, Member States will have two years to transpose it into their national laws.
The UK and Ireland have notified their wish to take part in the adoption and application of this directive. Denmark is the only Member State not taking part.There are over 8 million criminal proceedings in the EU every year. Together with the directive on the right to translation and interpretation, adopted last year, the draft directive on the right to information in criminal proceedings is one in a series of fair trial measures that aims to boost confidence in the EU’s single area of justice. A third proposal, to guarantee access to a lawyer, is currently under discussion in the Civil Liberties Committee.

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