EU Commission Adopts Requirements for Procedural Safeguards for Suspects and Defendants in Criminal Proceedings

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Sunday, June 1, 2003
Bruce Zagaris
On February 19, 2003, the European Commission adopted a “green paper on procedural safeguards for suspects and defendants in criminal proceedings throughout the European Union.” It has decided to transmit it to the Council, the Parliament, and the European Economic and Social Committee. The paper is part of an initiative by the EU to establish a general European area of justice. Antonio Vitorino, member of the Commission responsible of Justice and Home Affairs, observed how minimum common standards are the best ways to ensure homogeneous protection of individual rights throughout the EU. The first section of the paper tells the reasons action is appropriate at EU level. For instance, in December 2000, the European Court of Human Rights. Because the EU provides that EU members should comply with the ECHR, EU members should in principle see Commission’s proposals as providing “visibility” to standards to which they already adhere. The first section of the paper tells the reason action is appropriate at EU level. For instance, in December 2000, the European Commission, the Council and the Parliament jointly signed the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (CFREU). It covers the whole range of civil, political, economic and social rights of Europe citizens. It synthesizes the constitutional traditions and international obligations common to the EU Members. A significant aspect of the Charter is its affirmation that the EU is indeed a political community, rather than solely an economic organization. It asserts that respect for fundamental rights will be at the foundation of all European law. In addition, the Treaty on European Union, as amended by the Nice Treaty, contains provisions on the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Main sections of the paper discuss: access to legal representation, both before the trial and at trial; access to interpretation and translation: ensuring that vulnerable suspects and defendants in particular are properly protected; consular assistance to foreign detainees; and notifying suspects and defendants of their rights (the “Letter of Rights”).