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Strengthening the rights of persons suspected or accused in criminal proceedings – the role of National Human Rights Institutions

Since 2009, the European Union (EU) has adopted a series of key measures on the rights of suspect and accused in criminal proceedings, such as on the right to information, the right to interpretation and translation, the right to access to a lawyer, the right to legal aid, the presumption of innocence and the right to be present at the trial, as well as safeguards for vulnerable persons suspected or accused. Moreover, the project comes at a time when global research has found that legal and procedural safeguards in the first hours of arrest are particularly useful to prevent torture and ill-treatment.

In order to achieve its objective in strengthening the procedural rights of persons suspected and accused in criminal proceedings, the EU relies upon EU Member States to transpose and apply these measures in practice. National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) can plan an important role in this regard. NHRIs are ideally placed to contribute to the development and implementation of an effective legal framework, as well as act as a human rights monitoring mechanism in their country. They could thus not only make sure that EU directives are correctly transposed by the State, but also raise awareness and monitor that the procedural safeguards set up in the relevant legislation are applied in practice. The project is led by the Boltzmann Institute and will be implemented in partnership with the Helsinki Committees of Hungary and Poland as well as the Peace Institute in Slovenia, and will focus exactly on the role of NHRIs with regard the rights of persons suspected or accused of crime set up by EU law. It will look at all NHRIs of the European Union, except Denmark and the UK. 

With the overall aim to strengthen the role of NHRIs in ensuring an effective and coherent application of EU legal instruments and strengthening of suspects and accused rights, the project aims to:

  • Contribute to an effective and coherent application of the EU measures on the rights of persons suspected or accused of crime across the EU
  • Raise the awareness among and building the capacity of NHRIs on the relevant EU law, thereby improving their overall knowledge of European standards in the area of the rights of persons accused and suspected of crime and strengthening suspects’ and accused rights
  • Strengthen the mutual learning, exchange, and cooperation between NHRIs across the EU, NHRIs and national actors, and NHRIs and EU institutions on rights of persons suspected or accused of crime

By means of a Baseline Study the Project will provide an overview on the role currently played or that could be played by NHRIs on the protection and promotion of the rights of suspects and accused in criminal proceedings, having specific regard to the different mandates and structures of the NHRIs in the EU. After a consultation phase, including two EU wide workshops in Budapest, Hungary (February 2019) and Vienna, Austria (2019) as well as four national workshops in the partners’ countries (Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia), a Guidebook collecting good practices and examples on how NHRIs can use EU law (in connection with national and international law) to strengthen the rights of suspects and accused in criminal proceedings will be published. The Guidebook will aim to provide concrete guidance on how to use and monitor the relevant directives. Finally, proposals on how to contribute to the further development of EU criminal law will be developed.

The Guidebook, as well as other related publications, are also available on https://www.atlas-of-torture.org/en/.

Persons involved: 

Moritz Birk, Nora Katona, Giuliana Monina

Contact persons: 

Giuliana Monina (giuliana.monina@univie.ac.at)

Lead Organisation: 
Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights
Partner organisations: 
Hungarian Helsinki Committee (Hungary), Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland), and Peace Institute (Slovenia)
Project start: 
03/2018
Project end: 
12/2019
Funded by: 
EU DG Justice
Team: 
Human Dignity and Public Security

Co-funded by the Justice Programme of the European Union 

Disclaimer

This project is implemented with the financial support of the Justice Programme of the European Union. The contents of this website are the sole responsibility of the BIM and its project partners and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Commission.