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NEWS

Notification of rights to arrested people: Fair Trials launches new regional report

editor - May 30, 2017 - letter of rights, right to information

The right to a fair trial depends also on what happens before the trial, starting from the moment of arrest. At this stage already, it is crucial that the law enforcement authorities inform the arrested person of their rights whilst in custody. In the EU, the notification of rights is regulated by the Directive on the Right to Information, which mandates the Member States to provide a written Letter of Rights to all arrested and detained people, including information about how detention is regulated by the law and how this can be challenged, as well as about their rights, for instance to access a lawyer and to remain silent.
The Directive also provides that Letters of Rights be written in "simple and accessible language" for the arrested people to be able to understand and exercise their rights effectively. But is this always the case?
Pic EP speakersTogether with four partner organisations (Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Human Rights Monitoring Institute, Hungarian Helsinki Committee, and Rights International Spain), Fair Trials has recently concluded regional research into the national legislation and practice surrounding Letters of Rights in 5 EU countries: Bulgaria, France, Hungary, Lithuania, and Spain. The resulting regional report was officially launched on Monday 29th May in the European Parliament at an event hosted by MEP Birgit Sippel (S&D), rapporteur on the EU Directive on the Right to Information.
Despite some substantive differences, Letters of Rights in all countries were found to be over complicated and lacking crucial information on both the rights and the detention's process. András Kádár, Chair of lead partner Hungarian Helsinki Committee, recommended that the authorities work with plain language experts in order to re-write the Letters of Rights in accessible terms and to test its accessibility among laypeople. Such a test was carried out in 2016 in Hungary, where an alternative plain-language Letter of Rights proved to be 24% more accessible to laypeople than the existing one. Similarly, Fair Trials worked closely with plain language expert Jenny Gracie to develop an alternative Letter of Rights in France, which was discussed with domestic lawyers and civil society representatives in Paris in mid-May.
The regional research was preceded by an international survey of the law and practices around Letters of Rights outside the EU. The findings show that the EU is leading the way in this field, as international and domestic standards abroad fail to provide a comprehensive and enforceable framework of rules on the notification of rights. One positive example is given by the African Union's Luanda Guidelines, which provide for a comprehensive list of rights that the suspect or accused person deprived of liberty must be informed of orally and in writing. However, the Guidelines have no binding legal value, as opposed to the EU Directive on the Right to Information.

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71.

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If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71.

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