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Right to information during criminal proceedings
A new European law has been published in the EU's statute book that will ensure defendants' right to information during criminal proceedings throughout the European Union. EU Member States now have two years to introduce the new rules in their national legal systems.
"We now have in place another central pillar of a truly European area of Justice. The new law on the right to information will help to guarantee fair trials for everyone in the EU. It will ensure that anyone accused or suspected of a criminal offence is clearly and promptly informed of their rights," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner. "It will be especially useful for the millions of holiday makers and others who travel around the EU and who may find themselves involved in criminal proceedings: they will now have the explicit right to be informed of their rights in a language they understand. This will help safeguard against miscarriages of justice."
The Letter of Rights will contain practical details about the rights of persons arrested or detained, such as the right:
- to remain silent;
- to a lawyer;
- to be informed of the charge;
- to interpretation and translation in any language for those who do not understand the language of the proceedings;
- to be brought promptly before a court following arrest;
- to inform someone else about the arrest or detention.
At the moment, the chances that citizens will be properly informed of their rights if they are arrested and face criminal charges vary across the EU. In some Member States, suspects only receive oral information about their procedural rights, and in others the written information is not given unless requested.
In June 2011, the Commission put forward a third measure to guarantee access to a lawyer and to communicate with relatives. The proposal is currently under discussion in the European Parliament and in the Council.
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