European Union: Criminal justice reform must be priority for Czech presidency

Article by Fair Trials

Today, the Czech Republic took over the EU presidency. While European politics are dominated by the ongoing war in Ukraine, Fair Trials hopes that reforming Europe’s criminal justice systems will be a priority for the Czech presidency, During the July to December presidency, we urge the EU to:

Stop using criminal justice powers to deal with social issues

Europe’s criminal justice systems are overwhelmed and its prisons are overcrowded. This is the result of policy choices that attempt to address social issues through criminal prosecution instead of investing in poverty alleviation, education, housing, healthcare and support for people with mental health or neurodivergent conditions.

Ensure that predictive policing is banned in the AI Act

The use of AI by law enforcement to ‘predict’ criminal behaviour reinforces racism and discrimination that is inherent in criminal justice systems. A ban must be included in the Artificial Intelligence Act.

Acknowledge and properly address systemic racism in policing and criminal justice systems

The EU’s Anti-Racism Plan acknowledges that discrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin “persists in our society”. However, its proposals for tackle hate speech continue to rely on prosecution and harsher sentencing rather than addressing the deeper structural racism with criminal justice systems and wider society

Involve impacted people and civil society in policy-making

We cannot have real policy reform unless people who have been impacted and harmed by criminal justice systems are involved in legislative and other reform.

Support the European Commission in reforming the use of pre-trial detention

The crisis in Europe’s prisons is in part fuelled by excessively high rates of pre-trial detention across Europe. It is unacceptable that hundreds of thousands of legally innocent people are being detained and the European Parliament must support the Commission in addressing this inhumanity.

Stand up for people’s rights in the digitalisation of cross-border justice

Digitalisation in cross border justice can help to protect the procedural rights of people who are accused of a crime in another country. But the use of digital tools in criminal justice carries risks that need to be thoroughly understood and mitigated before normalising such practices through legislation.

Find our more about Fair Trials’ work in Europe.