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Letters of rights in plain language

EU law requires that Member States provide anyone who has been arrested or detained with a written document that explains their rights in simple and accessible language (a letter of rights). However, the quality of information being provided varies. In some countries, the letters consist of cut and pasted excerpts taken from complicated national laws. People who have been arrested, and who are in a vulnerable situation, often don’t read these documents or don’t understand them. As a result, they may not know their rights or how to exercise them.

If you can’t understand your rights and the language used in the justice system, you don’t have meaningful access to justice. Documents should be clear enough (in wording, structure and design) for the intended audience to easily find, understand and use the information they need. Generally, there is limited awareness of the importance of plain language among criminal justice professionals. Clear communication, not only benefits suspects and defendants (who need to understand their rights in order to exercise them); it can also facilitate the work of law enforcement and increase public trust in justice.

Fair Trials has worked with its partners (the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, APADOR-CH and Antigone), LEAP members and plain language experts from across Europe to improve communication with people in the criminal justice system and to create new, easy to understand, letters of rights. We have also developed an online training platform available in 10 languages for criminal justice professionals.

Different letters of rights exist for children, adults, detained or free suspects, and persons subject to a European Arrest Warrant. We decided to focus on letters of rights provided to detained adult suspects, but a similar rewriting exercise should be done for all letters of rights.

Below, you can find examples of letter of rights written in plain language. Some have already been designed, others are text that can be copied and used.

Please contact us if you have any feedback on these letters or if you would like to distribute them in your country.

 

Belgium.jpg

Déclaration de vos droits (FR)

Verklaring Van uw rechten (NL)

Croatia.jpg

Pouka o pravima

Estonia.jpg

Õiguste deklaratsioon

France.jpg

Vos droits en garde à vue

Germany.jpg

Ihre Rechte im Strafverfahren

Flag-Hungary.jpg

Milyen jogai vannak, ha bűncselekménnyel gyanúsítják?

Milyen jogai vannak, ha Önt fogva tartják?

Ireland1.jpg Notice of rights

Italy.png

Lettera dei diritti

Netherlands.jpg

U bent opgepakt, wat nu?

Poland1.jpg

Prawa zatrzymanego

Portugal.jpg

Direitos e deveres da/o arguida/o

Romania.jpg

Drepturile tale la poliție

Spain1.jpg

Información de los hechos y razones de la detención y derechos de la persona detenida

 

Published in 2021

 

Partners:

HHC logo_coloured_small.jpg  logo-apador.jpgLogo_antigone.jpg

 

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This project was financially supported by the Justice Programme of the European Union. The contents of this page are the sole responsibility of the project consortium and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Commission.

Publication

Accessible Letters of Rights in Europe: International and Comparative Law Research Report

Key Stats
In a survey conducted by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee the overall level of understanding of the existing letter of rights was 38,5 %, whereas it was 62% for the plain language version.

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Activities in the following sections on this website are supported by the Justice Programme of the European Union: Legal Experts Advisory Panel, Defence Rights Map, Case Law Database, Advice Guides and Latest News. More information about our financial supporters is available here.