Defending the
Human Right
to a
Fair Trial

Justice in Europe

Across Europe, basic rights are being violated every day in police stations, court rooms and prisons. This is destroying the lives of innocent people, causing miscarriages of justice and undermining public faith in criminal justice systems.

At Fair Trials we believe Europe should work together to improve respect for basic fair trial rights. We have led the calls for action by the European Union to improve standards of justice and our work is starting to pay-off. New laws have been passed guaranteeing some basic defence rights but much more remains to be done.

Until we have justice in Europe, human rights abuses will undermine the willingness of European countries to work together to fight crime. There are four arms to our Justice in Europe campaign:
1. Make existing laws work in practice; 2. Follow up on promised new laws; 3. Tackle excessive and unjustified pre-trial detention; and 4. Safeguards against injustice in judicial cooperation.

This map gives an overview of the status of Justice in Europe. You can click on any of the EU'™s 28 member countries and six EU candidate and potential candidate countries in the Western Balkans for:

- Information on its record over the last five years in the European Court of Human Rights on fair trial rights and pre-trial detention;

- Cases of Fair Trials International clients (where relevant);

- Criticisms by international organisations, the local press and domestic NGOs; and

- Practical guidance on criminal procedure and local sources of support (for some countries).

If you have any comments on the information contained here, or think we should include anything else, please email us at: [email protected]

This work has been made possible through generous support from the European Commission.

 

  • You can find out Albania’s full violation statistics here.
  • Between January 2014 and April 2016 Albania was held in violation of Article 5 ECHR in 1 decided case and in violation of Article 6 in decided cases.
  • In some cases, pre-trial detention extends to a number of 3 years without justification (UN Committee against Torture Report).
  • Despite the possibility of applying to free legal aid, according to a UK home office report, infrastructural problems within the judicial system hinder the correct distribution of legal aid and the carrying out of impartial and open trials.
  •  Although a 2012 GRECO Report welcomed the new reforms, systemic corruption still exists within the country, which involves all law enforcement officials and the judiciary (Freedom House Report).
  • Learn more about Albania’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

  • You can find out France’s full violation statistics here.
  • Kosovo is currently applying to the Council of Europe. Consequently, the European Court of Human Rights (EctHR) does not hold Kosovo accountable for the European Convention on Human Rights. As a result, no Article 5 judgements have been issued by the EctHR against Kosovo.
  • The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman Treatment reports that prisoners are routinely subjected to physical abuse and sometimes are placed in cells with limited access to natural light and hot water.
  • You can read our guest post on pre-trial detention challenges in Kosovo.
  • Learn more about Kosovo’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

  • You can find out the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s full violation statistics here.
  • Between March 2014 and April 2015 Macedonia was held in violation of Article 5 ECHR in 1 decided cases and in violation of Article 6 in 3 decided cases.
  • You can read our guest post on pre-trial detention challenges in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
  • Amnesty International and the European Court of Human Rights bought the Government of Macedonia’s actions to light in relation to the case of El-Masri and its complicity in the unlawful practice of US renditions.
  • Learn more about the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

 

 

  • You can find out Montenegro’s full violation statistics here.
  • Montenegro is currently applying to the Council of Europe. Consequently, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) does not hold Montenegro accountable for the European Convention on Human Rights. As a result, no Article 5 or Article 6 judgements have been issued by the ECtHR against Montenegro.
  • Montenegro is currently applying to the Council of Europe. Consequently, Montenegro has not yet been held judicially accountable for the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • Many detainees are not afforded that right to talk to their lawyer until after an initial police interrogation. (Read a report by The Civil Rights Defenders for more information).
  • EU reports and NGOs have highlighted deficiencies in Montenegro’s legal aid system, which include month-long delays in approving legal aid in certain cases.
  • Learn more about Montenegro’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

 

  • You can find out Bosnia and Herzegovina’s full violation statistics here.
  • Between January 2014 and April 2016 Bosnia was held in violation of Article 5 ECHR in 0 decided cases and in violation of Article 6 in 0 decided cases.
  • Foreign nationals continue to be subjected to indefinite detentions without trial on grounds of national security (2013 Human Rights Watch Report).
  • According to the 2014 US Department of State Report, detainees are not granted access to a lawyer from the moment they have been put in custody and private communication with a lawyer is sometimes impossible before appearing in front of a prosecutor or a judge.
  • Bosnian law provides legal aid only to people who have committed a serious crime.
  • During plea bargaining phases, judges persuade defendants to plead guilty in order to accelerate trial proceedings.
  • Learn more about Bosnia and Herzegovina’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

  • You can find out the full UK violation statistics here.
  • Between July 2015 and March 2016 the United Kingdom was held in violation of Article 5 ECHR in 0 decided cases and in violation of Article 6 in 1 decided cases

  • We have highlighted a number of cases of unjust extradition from the UK under the European Arrest Warrant (see for example: Andrew Symeou, Garry Mann, Deborah Dark and Edmond Arapi).

  • If you have been arrested in England or Wales you can find useful information in our Need Help section. We also have a separate page for the legal system in Scotland in our Need Help section.

  • Learn more about the UK’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

  • You can find out Sweden’s full violation statistics here.
  • Between April 2014 and March 2016 Sweden was held in violation of Article 5 ECHR in 0 decided cases and in violation of Article 6 in 0 decided cases.
  • Concerns have been raised about the restrictive conditions in which pre-trial detainees are held in Sweden and the lack of alternatives to pre-trial detention (read our Q&A about pre-trial detention in Sweden).
  • Sweden generally has good systems for upholding defence rights but there are some concerns that suspects and defendants are not always notified of their right to a lawyer.
  • There have been some isolated incidents of ill treatment by police in Sweden, but these are usually thoroughly investigated (read a report by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture).
  • According to the European Social Survey, half the people surveyed thought that the Swedish courts were more likely to find people guilty from minority racial/ethnic groups.
  • Learn more about Sweden’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases.
  • If you have been arrested in Sweden, check our useful advice page. It has been designed to answer to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding criminal proceedings and defence rights in Sweden.
  • You can find out Spain’s full violation statistics here.
  • Between July 2015 and March 2016 Spain was held in violation of Article 5 ECHR in 0 decided cases and in violation of Article 6 in 2 decided cases.
  • Incommunicado detention is a serious problem, with detainees deprived of the right to notify contacts of their arrest and to appoint legal counsel for up to 13 days in security cases.
  • We intervened in the case between Candido Gonzalez Martin and Plasencia Santos v Spain based on the Right to Information Directive.
  • Defence lawyers tell us that special safeguards for vulnerable suspects are not always properly applied in Spain (read our report on the treatment of vulnerable suspects in the EU and the case of Andrew Dmytruk).
  • If you have been arrested in Spain you can find useful information in our Need Help section.
  • Learn more about Spain’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

 

  • You can find out Slovenia’s full violation statistics here.
  • Between April 2014 and March 2016 Slovenia was held in violation of Article 5 ECHR in 0 decided cases and in violation of Article 6 in 0 decided cases.
  • According to the European Social Survey, people in Slovenia have little confidence in procedural fairness, and relatively high numbers believe that courts in Slovenia take bribes.
  • Practitioners tell us that while there are effective safeguards in place to protect vulnerable suspects at the police custody stage, these are often poorly enforced during trials (read our report on the treatment of vulnerable suspects in the EU).
  • Learn more about Slovenia’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

  • You can find out Slovakia’s full violation statistics here.
  • Between July 2015 and March 2016 Slovakia was held in violation of Article 5 ECHR in 0 decided cases and in violation of Article 6 in 1 decided case.
  • During the same period, Slovakia was held in violation of Article 6 ECHR in six decided cases. Five of the cases found a violation of Article 6(1), the right to a fair public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal.
  • Defence lawyers tell us that there are limited safeguards in place to protect vulnerable suspects, and that these are applied at police discretion and therefore vary widely from case to case (read our report on the treatment of vulnerable suspects in the EU).
  • If you have been arrested in Slovakia you can find useful information in our Need Help section.
  • Learn more about Slovakia’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

 

  • You can find out Romania’s full violation statistics here.
  • Between April 2014 and March 2016 Romania was held in violation of Article 5 ECHR in 9 decided cases and in violation of Article 6 in 19 decided cases.
  • There is widespread criticism of the excessive length of pre-trial detention in Romania(read our report on pre-trial detention in the EU).
  • We have highlighted problems in Romania with the right to a retrial when convicted in absentia, as required by international law (read about the case of Da An Chen).
  • If you have been arrested in Romania you can find useful information in our Need Help section.
  • Learn more about Romania’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

  • You can find out Portugal’s full violation statistics here.
  • Between August 2014 and March 2016 Portugal was held in violation of Article 5 ECHR in 1 decided cases and in violation of Article 6 in 2 decided cases
  • International NGOs have raised concerns about police brutality on arrest and during detention (read reports by the US State Department and the UN Committee Against Torture).
  • There have been criticisms in the domestic media about the lack of access to a lawyer whilst in police custody.
  • We have raised concerns about trial procedures and standards of interpretation in Portugal (see the case of Garry Mann).
  • If you have been arrested in Portugal you can find useful information in our Need Help section.
  • Learn more about Portugal’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

 

  • You can find out Poland’s full violation statistics here.
  • Between July 2014 and March 2015 Poland was held in violation of Article 5 ECHR in 1 decided cases and in violation of Article 6 in 0 decided cases.
  • Lawyers tell us that in practice legal aid is not usually granted until suspects appear before a court 48 hours after arrest (read our report on the availability of legal aid in the EU).
  • Poland has drawn criticism for its excessive use of European Arrest Warrants. Since the EAW system came in, Poland has issued thousands more Warrants than any other country. We have helped many clients facing extradition to Poland, such as Natalia Gorczowska.
  • If you have been arrested in Poland you can find useful information in our Need Help section.
  • Learn more about Poland’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

  • You can find out Netherland’s full violation statistics here.
  • Between April 2014 and March 2016 The Netherlands was held in violation of Article 5 ECHR in 0 decided cases and in violation of Article 6 in 0 decided cases.
  • There has been widespread criticism about heavy restrictions on access to legal advice during police interrogations. The Netherlands has criticised the draft Directive guaranteeing suspects access to legal advice (read a joint letter from Fair Trials and other leading NGOs)
  • Anti-terrorism measures in the Netherlands have been criticised by academics and NGOs for contravening the ECtHR
  • If you have been arrested in the Netherlands you can find useful information in our Need Help section.
  • Learn more about the Netherlands record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

Malta

  • You can find out Malta’s full violation statistics here.
  • Between August 2014 and March 2016 Malta was held in violation of Article 5 ECHR in 1 decided cases and in violation of Article 6 in 1 decided cases.
  • The length of pre-trial detention in Malta and excessive delays to the trial process have been widely criticised (read a US State Department report).
  • We have highlighted problems with minors being questioned in Malta without an appropriate adult present (see the case of James Milton in our report on the treatment of vulnerable suspects in the EU).
  • If you have been arrested in Malta you can find useful information in our Need Help section.
  • Learn more about Malta’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

  • You can find out Luxembourg’s full violation statistics here.
  • Between June 2012 and March 2016, Luxembourg was held in violation of Article 5 ECHR in 0 decided cases and in violation of Article 6 in 1 decided case.
  • There are reports that pre-trial detention is used excessively, and that there is no maximum limit on the amount of time a defendant can be held (read our report on pre-trial detention).
  • Reports have criticised the lack of a proper appeals procedure in Luxembourg; it has been reported that recent proposed reforms do not go far enough (read comments by the Ombudsman of the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg).
  • Defence lawyers tell us that while procedures are in place to protect minors in criminal proceedings, the needs of other vulnerable groups are poorly protected in Luxembourg (read our report on the treatment of vulnerable suspects in the EU).
  • If you have been arrested in Luxembourg you can find useful information in our Need Help section.
  • Learn more about Luxembourg’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

  • You can find out Lithuania’s full violation statistics here.
  • Between July 2015 and March 2016, Lithuania has been held in violation of Article 5 ECHR in 1 decided case and in violation of Article 6 in 1 decided case.
  • Concerns have been raised by local NGOs about the overuse of pre-trial detention in Lithuania, in particular that legislation to allow for extensions of detention in exceptional circumstances is being abused.
  • NGOs and defence lawyers have raised concerns about the lack of competence of lawyers who work in the legal aid system in Lithuania (read our report on the availability of legal aid in the EU and a report by the Open Society Justice Initiative).
  • If you have been arrested in Lithuania you can find useful information in our Need Help section.
  • Learn more about Lithuania’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

  • You can find out Latvia’s full violation statistics here.
  • Between July 2015 and March 2016, Latvia was held in violation of Article 5 ECHR in 2 decided cases and in violation of Article 6 in 1 decided case.
  • The length of pre-trial detention has been widely criticised, as has Latvia’s failure to enforce the legal maximum of 18 months pre-trial detention and the lack of alternatives to detention (read our report on pre-trial detention in the EU).
  • Latvia enjoys the highest conviction rate – an ‘implausible’ 97% of those tried are found guilty.
  • If you have been arrested in Latvia you can find useful information in our Need Help section.
  • Learn more about Latvia’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

  • You can find out Italy’s full violation statistics here.
  • Between August 2014 and March 2016, Italy was held in violation of Article 5 ECHR in 3 decided cases and in violation of Article 6 in 0 decided cases.
  • Defence lawyers have told us that the legal aid application process in Italy is very bureaucratic. Lawyers are unwilling to take on legal aid cases due to the low compensation levels and delays in payment, sometimes lasting up to four years (read our report on the availability of legal aid in the EU).
  • Read more about Fair Trials’ client Edmond Arapi, who was subject to an extradition request from Italy for a crime he could not possibly have committed.
  • If you have been arrested in Italy you can find useful information in our Need Help section.
  • Learn more about Italy’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

  • You can find out Ireland’s full violation statistics here.
  • Between April 2014 and March 2016 Ireland was held in violation of Article 5 ECHR in 0 decided cases and in violation of Article 6 in 0 decided cases.
  • Concerns have been raised about the length of time that pre-trial detainees are held without charge and the poor conditions in which they are held (read a report by the Irish Penal Reform Trust).
  • The lack of access to legal advice during pre-trial detention in Ireland has been widely criticised. Ireland has chosen not to opt into the draft Directive on access to legal advice (read a joint letter commenting on this, from Fair Trials and other leading NGOs, including the Irish Council for Civil Liberties).
  • If you have been arrested in Ireland you can find useful information in our Need Help section.
  • Learn more about Ireland’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

 

  • You can find out Hungary’s full violation statistics here.
  • Between August 2014 and March 2016 Hungary was held in violation of Article 5 ECHR in 2 decided cases and in violation of Article 6 in 2 decided cases.
  • Pre-trial detention conditions have been widely criticised, with reports of severe overcrowding and minority ethnic groups being particularly at risk. There are also concerns about restrictions on access to a lawyer in pre-trial detention (read a report by the Open Society Justice Initiative).
  • We have reported on lengthy delays to the trial process in Hungary (read about the case of Michael Turner, who was extradited to Hungary in November 2009, spent months in pre-trial detention and still had not been tried as of October 2012).
  • If you have been arrested in Hungary you can find useful information in our Need Help section.
  • Learn more about Hungary’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

 

  • You can find out Greece’s full violation statistics here.
  • Between April 2014 and March 2016 Greece was held in violation of Article 5 ECHR in 4 decided cases and in violation of Article 6 in 4 decided cases.
  • Greece has been widely criticised for over-use of pre-trial detention and for the difficulty of challenging detention decisions. We have highlighted cases where people have been held in pre-trial detention for lengthy periods of time in Greece, often in horrendous conditions (see, for example, Andrew Symeou and Ryan Johnson).
  • Lawyers tell us that legal aid is very rarely granted in Greece and that, in the rare cases where it is available, it is usually only when the suspect is brought before a judge 48 hours after arrest (read our report on the availability of legal aid in the EU).
  • If you have been arrested in Greece you can find useful information in our Need Help section.
  • Learn more about Greece’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

  • You can find out Germany’s full violation statistics here.
  • Between July 2015 and March 2016 Germany was held in violation of Article 5 ECHR in 1 decided case and in violation of Article 6 in 2 decided cases.
  • Detention conditions have been criticised and police and prison systems have been described as racist.
  • A report by the Open Society Justice Initiative has highlighted concerns that classification by the authorities as “accused” rather than “suspect” can lead to people not receiving adequate access to legal advice.
  • Practitioners tell us that legal aid is not granted in Germany until the suspect appears before a judge. Many practitioners are unwilling to provide representation at the police questioning stage due to the risk that they will not be paid later if legal aid is refused (read our report on the availability of legal aid in the EU).
  • If you have been arrested in Germany you can find useful information in our Need Help section.
  • Learn more about Germany’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

  • You can find out France’s full violation statistics here.
  • Between April 2007 and April 2014, France was held in violation of Article 5 in fourteen decided cases. During the same period, France was held in violation of Article 6 in eleven decided cases. Ten of the cases found a violation of Article 6 (1) of the right to a fair public hearing within a reasonable time.
  • Reports highlight excessive pre-trial detention in recent years. French laws allowing ordre public (the concept of ‘offence to public opinion’) to be taken into account in decisions imposing pre-trial detention may contravene Article 5 (read our communiqué on pre-trial detention in France).
  • We reported a number of cases, including Deborah Dark, subject to an extradition request for a 20-year-old conviction she knew nothing about.
  • The Open Society Justice Initiative has highlighted concerns that the role of lawyers during police questioning remains restricted, despite recent reforms intended to bring France in line with ECtHR requirements.
  • If you have been arrested in France you can find useful information in our Need Help section.
  • Learn more about France’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

 

  • You can find out Finland’s full violation statistics here.
  • Between April 2014 and March 2016 Finland was held in violation of Article 5 ECHR in 0 decided cases and in violation of Article 6 in 0 decided cases.
  • Defence lawyers tell us that suspects are not sufficiently informed of their rights, and that access to legal advice and representation during the early trial stages can be limited. The legal aid application is also very complex, meaning that many suspects do not have access to legal advice at the early stage of a case (read our report on the availability of legal aid in the EU).
  • If you have been arrested in Finland you can find useful information in our Need Help section.
  • Learn more about Finland’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

  • You can find Estonia’s full violation statistics here.
  • Between July 2015 and March 2016 Estonia was held in violation of Article 5 ECHR in 0 decided cases and in violation of Article 6 in 0 decided cases.
  • Prison conditions are a cause of serious concern: reports note the lack of space and ventilation and that some detainees are held in cells for 24 hours per day (read a report by the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights).
  • There are reports that there is an absence of measures to protect vulnerable groups (read our report on the treatment of vulnerable suspects in the EU).
  • If you have been arrested in Estonia you can find useful information in our Need Help section.
  • Learn more about Estonia’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

 

  • You can find out Denmark’s full violation statistics here.
  • Between August 2014 and March 2016  Denmark was held in violation of Article 5 ECHR in 0 decided cases and in violation of Article 6 in 0 decided cases.
  • The age of criminal responsibility has been lowered to 14 years and domestic media outlets have reported that there are inadequate safeguards to ensure minors receive a fair trial.
  • Defence lawyers have told us that while there are some special procedures in place for children and vulnerable suspects involved in criminal proceedings, these are often not followed in practice (read our report on the treatment of vulnerable suspects in the EU).
  • If you have been arrested in Denmark you can find useful information in our Need Help section.
  • Learn more about Denmark’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

  • You can find out the Czech Republic’s full violation statistics here.
  • Between April 2007 and July 2015, the Czech Republic was held in violation of Article 5 ECHR in eight decided cases. During the same period, the Czech Republic was held in violation of Article 6 ECHR in four decided cases.
  • There are reports that juveniles in pre-trial detention are held in poor conditions and with adult prisoners.
  • Defence lawyers tell us that it is at the discretion of the police whether to allow the suspect access to the contact details of lawyers or to information about legal aid (read our report on the availability of legal aid in the EU).
  • Several reports have highlighted cases where the right to a fair trial has been violated due to lengthy delays in bringing defendants to trial.
  • If you have been arrested in Czech Republic you can find useful information in our Need Help section.
  • Learn more about the Czech Republic’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

  • You can find out Croatia’s full violation statistics here.

 

  • You can find out Bulgaria’s full violation statistics here.
  • Between April 2014 and March 2016 Bulgaria has been held in violation of Article 5 ECHR in 5 decided cases and in violation of Article 6 in 1 decided case/
  • Serious concerns have been expressed by local NGOs about the judiciary’s lack of independence, and FTI cases, such as Michael Shields, have highlighted problems with flawed trial procedures in Bulgaria
  • Lawyers tell us that while there is a constitutional right to legal aid in Bulgaria it is often not available in practice due to a lack of lawyers (read our report on the availability of legal aid in the EU).
  • If you have been arrested in Bulgaria you can find useful information in our Need Help section.
  • Learn more about Bulgaria’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

  • You can find out Belgium’s full violation statistics here.
  • Between April 2014 and March 2016 Belgium was held in violation of Article 5 ECHR in 0 decided cases and in violation of Article 6 in 9 decided cases.
  • The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment highlights prison overcrowding, which is leading to a deterioration of detention conditions.
  • There have been concerns about the ability of suspects to access legal advice, but recent reforms have led to some improvements.The legal aid system suffers from insufficient quality control, which undermines fair trial standards (for more information read our report on the availability of legal aid in the EU).
  • If you have been arrested in Belgium you can find useful information in our Need Help section.
  • Learn more about Belgium’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

 

  • You can find out Austria’s full violation statistics here.
  • Between April 2014 and March 2016 Austria was held in violation of Article 5 ECHR in 0 decided cases and in violation of Article 6 in 1 decided case.
  • The fees charged by the courts for copies of case documents make access to justice difficult for those who cannot afford to pay.
  • Racial discrimination by the police has been reported, along with claims that the system is inefficient at disciplining officers and fails to secure prosecutions against them, despite compelling evidence.
  • Practitioners tell us that police often do not tell suspects about the availability of legal aid, meaning that they often make statements before they have spoken to a lawyer (read our report on the availability of legal aid in the EU).
  • If you have been arrested in Austria you can find useful information in our Need Help section.
  • Learn more about Austria’s record in upholding liberty and fair trial rights in criminal cases and the latest related news, on our country profile page.

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Many individuals find themselves before the court with no prospect of receiving legal aid. They can find themselves convicted of offences which they did not commit, because they did not have proper legal representation. Without proper legal aid and access to lawyers, the right to a fair trial is being impacted upon.

The process in relation to disclosure is one of the most common barriers to a fair trial. Prosecution lawyers regularly refuse to disclose material which could have assisted the defence. As a result, defence lawyers can miss key pieces of evidence which could have turned the case in their client's favour.

Occasionally some officers resort to brutality or coercion, particularly at large gatherings of people during protest marches.

I am disturbed by the fact that we don’t provide translations during investigations. This puts the defendant at a disadvantage and provides no equality of arms.

Non-nationals are kept in custody to prevent them from returning home. I believe these form a large portion of our ‘inmates’ in pre-trial custody. It often stands out as disproportionate to the crime that they are accused of.

Some suspects spend a very long time in custody. Sweden has no real limit for pre-trial detention. This is a heavy burden, especially if the subject is isolated, which is very common.

Lawyers have no access to the police trial, no private interview prior to questioning, and no possibility of active intervention during the interrogation. Without access to the file we are unable to give correct legal advice.

I have NEVER seen a judicial document translated and handed to a subject.

The main barriers to a fair trial are the absence of a real presumption of innocence and the breach of procedural safeguards.

Public opinion and media coverage can sometimes pressure the court to make a particular decision where a case is very notorious.

It is possible to go for quite a long period without a lawyer if you do not have any money.

Police officers, prosecutors and courts often ignore the main principles of criminal procedure and the suspect's rights. Their decisions are often unfounded and without any logical basis.

There are problems with detention conditions - bad hygiene, bad food and drink, bad relationships between the people held in custody.

Often it is not possible to anticipate judicial decisions. Courts often ignore case law and evidence.

Often suspects claim that they have been brutalised mentally or physically. Police custody is overcrowded, the conditions are poor and in some cases suspects are sent to state prison during police custody.

The major problem I believe to be the ignorance about fundamental rights on the part of police officers.

Sometimes police officers threaten or beat people, but this is becoming less common. More common is pressure for the suspect to make an "off the record"™ confession and not to exercise their right to access a lawyer.

Some detention facilities have very poor hygiene conditions, with regard to toiletries in particular.

In practice, the court often only appoints the state-appointed lawyer a few days or weeks after the charges. Therefore the defendant is without a lawyer during the first interview(s).

During police custody neither the suspect nor the lawyer has access to the case files. Theoretically the prosecutor is the authority that decides whether access is granted.

Suspects are left for over 20 hours with no food or drink. Cell conditions are terrible. Lawyers have no right to inspect the detention conditions.

Poland is recognised as a country in which decisions on pre-trial detention are issued too easily, for quite long periods of time.

The preparatory proceedings are definitely too long. Temporary arrest is abused; it is used too often and for too long, and often replaces the actual penalty.

Sometimes suspects are told that they have to spend the night in jail if they want to consult a lawyer which means they are pushed not to exercise their right to consultation.

The suspect has no access to the case file before the hearing. You can discuss the file with your client but not in private. There is a police security presence in the room so that you cannot speak freely.

The principle of "˜Justice delayed is justice denied"™ represents the most serious breach of the right to a fair trial in Malta.

Defence lawyers are granted 1 hour to consult with their client before the interrogation by the police. This is done without knowing what the investigation is about and without knowing what evidence is held by the police. Advice has to be given in a vacuum!

Too many suspects are being convinced by the police that they do not need a lawyer at the custody stage, that it would only cost time and money, and that the lawyer cannot assist during the process anyway.

The presumption of innocence is not sufficiently applied. Suspects are being detained too easily and remain in custody too long.

In some cases the prosecution reaches agreements with suspects that, for example, the suspect will give evidence against his accomplices and will receive a better sentence. Such agreements are not legal and difficult to prove.

A suspect rarely understands his right not to incriminate himself and normally it is not explained to him.

Quite often police orally encourage suspects NOT to use the assistance of a lawyer. They offer certain deals as well as threaten suspects in this respect.

In theory, the lawfulness of police custody can be reviewed on request of the defence, but this complaint procedure is not effective since the maximum time for police custody is 48h, but the complaint must be answered within 3 days.

A suspect is not entitled to access the case file until termination of the pre-trial stage. The issue has become even more complicated due to amendments which provide that a suspect is not even entitled to access the materials which form the basis of his detention.

Inhumane treatment occurs very often in order to obtain a confession. The lawyer can only see the suspect with the authorisation of the public prosecutor, and this is rarely granted.

Police officers cannot question suspects without a lawyer present, but in practice they do so in order to obtain a self incriminating statement.

Overcrowding is a real issue.

During the trial many judges intervene to prevent defence lawyers from cross examining the prosecution witness. The trial is often a charade.

A suspect'™s right to remain silent is compromised by the fact that inferences can be drawn from the suspect refusing to answer questions. This is made more difficult by the fact that lawyers are not allowed to be present during interrogation.

There is not a sufficient legal obligation on the police to provide information about the charges to the suspect or his lawyer. This lacuna can be exploited, and is, by some policemen.

Emergency lawyer access does not always result in an effective defence. The actual presence of the lawyer is not required during police custody and interrogations can be held at times as unreasonable as 3am. Sometimes the lawyer is notified by phone 15 minutes before the interrogation.

Police quite often interview a suspect without a lawyer, convincing him that he does not need one if he is innocent.

A minor killed himself in police custody with his own shoe lace.

In general I would say that the efficiency of the prosecution, which is above 90%, shows that the equality of arms is not respected enough.

Sometimes the police fabricate answers during questioning or change the content of the confession. As there is no audio recording, lawyers have no way of proving that this goes on.

There are problems with police brutality. The subject is often forced to confess to a crime that he has never committed.

There are times that police custody conditions are inhuman. The cells are tiny, they don'™t have space to move and there are no medical facilities.

Sometimes suspects are hit or put under pressure (œ"You will be in jail for a long time if you don'™t speak with us").

Pre-trial custody is abused; detainees are encouraged to declare their own guilt.

Inhumane treatment can occur in police custody before a lawyer is present.

Conditions in pre-trial detention are very bad. There are problems with hygiene, cell space, fresh air, toilets, and food.

Lawyers are badly paid under the legal aid system, which means that most poor people have a very poor defence.

The suspect may be unable to contact a lawyer, and he may be wrongly informed by the police that the lawyer is unavailable. The police tend to be irritated by the presence of a lawyer during interrogation.

It is not unknown for police to use pressure during detention in order to obtain a confession from the suspect.

When the plaintiff is the state, the starting point for the suspect seems to be more like a presumption of guilt than of innocence.

The lack of quality control system for interpreters means that there are effectively no guarantees as to the quality of their work.

Detention facilities are often old (dating back to the Soviet era) and in poor condition. Sometimes they are overcrowded.

Some materials are held to be sensitive on the grounds of national security and are not shown to the defence.

Generally speaking, the courts and judges feel that their most important task is to protect the state, and not to ensure that justice is done.

The police have to present charges as a precondition of arrest, but these charges can be changed and extended during police interrogations.

The major barrier to a fair trial is the slow operation of the courts, which are unable to resolve cases within a reasonable time. This is also the most common reason for complaints to the Czech constitutional court and the European Court of Human Rights.

The reality is that review of continued detention is a simple formality in many cases. Reasons are not given for continued detention and previous decisions are simply repeated.

Sometimes the arrest of a suspect will be delayed in order to take an incriminating statement first. The subject will then be arrested and given his rights.

Police sometimes exhibit brutal behaviour and cause psychological stress to suspects.

As regards the right to access a lawyer, police officers often pressure the suspect to either waive his right in writing, or to '˜choose'™ the assistance of the duty lawyer provided by the police.

Access to a lawyer is usually not provided during the first 24 hours of arrest, and is only available once charges have been brought. By that point the suspect will have made written statements which may form part of the legal grounds for his accusation.

My clients often complain of physical or psychological police brutality during the process of questioning.

The doctors examining suspects come from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. We have heard complaints by clients that after being beaten, they were examined by a doctor who then found no traces of brutality.

The main problem is the impunity of the judges for their mistakes. There are many judges who have had little or no experience of judicial practice before their assignment.

The Belgian State has failed to organize any system of remuneration for legal assistance since the Salduz case. As a result, many lawyers have refused to participate in the legal aid system for assistance during police custody.

Sometimes the interpreter is a police officer who has taken an oath. I don'™t consider a police officer to be fully independent.

Sometimes interpreters lack independence from the police. Interpretations can be incomplete or inaccurate.

During police custody, not even the lawyer has full access to the case file. To get a copy of the file a fee must be paid.