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(Jul 26, 2010) On July 20, 2010, the European Commission adopted a draft directive designed to ensure that European Union citizens suspected or accused of a criminal offense have the right during criminal proceedings to be informed in their own language of their basic legal rights. This legislative initiative is in implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force on December 1, 2010, and which requires the EU to adopt legislation to comply with the rights of individuals in criminal cases enshrined in the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights. (Press Release, IP/10/989, RAPID, Commission Promotes the Right to Information in Criminal Proceedings (July 20, 2010), http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/10/989&fo
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The proposal includes a model Letter of Rights that describes the basic rights of the accused in clear, simple language. The Letter is to be read to a suspect during an arrest, irrespective of whether the accused asks to be read his rights or not. The Letter states the individual's right to be informed of what offenses he or she is suspected of; to be assisted by a lawyer; to have an interpreter and a translation of the document in his or her native language; and to be informed of how long he or she will be detained. (Id.)

The proposed directive, if adopted, will provide legal certainty as to the rights of the accused and will harmonize the information provided to accused persons across the EU. According to the European Commission's estimates, there are eight million criminal proceedings annually in the EU. Currently, 12 Member States have been using a Letter of Rights, including Germany and the Netherlands, which adopted its use in January and April 2010, respectively. In some countries, the Letter is presented orally, whereas in others it is given in writing. (Id.)

Viviane Reding, the EU's Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, commented on the proposal:

Individuals cannot fully exercise their defence rights unless they know what they are. Knowing what your rights are and what you are accused of is crucial for a fair trial. Dealing with the law can be an intimidating process and we cannot expect people to demand respect from the authorities for their procedural rights when they don't know what those rights are. The Commission's proposal will therefore ensure that everybody, everywhere in the EU is made aware of their rights. (Id.)

Author: Theresa Papademetriou More by this author
Topic: Crime and law enforcement More on this topic
Jurisdiction: European Union More about this jurisdiction

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Last updated: 07/26/2010