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Strengthening procedural rights – what can the National Human Rights Institutions do?

admin - March 13, 2019 - suspects' rights, EU Directives on procedural rights, roadmap directives

 

In February 2019, Fair Trials took part in a workshop on the role of the National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) in strengthening the rights of suspects and accused in criminal proceedings. The workshop was hosted by the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Human Rights and the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and was part of a wider project implemented by the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute in cooperation with the Helsinki Committees of Hungary and Poland and the Peace Institute in Slovenia. The event gathered NHRIs working in the EU area and other experts from national and international level.

The project, 'Strengthening the rights of persons suspected or accused in criminal proceedings – the role of National Human Rights Institutions', aims to contribute to an effective and coherent implementation of the EU directives on procedural rights. The goal is to raise awareness among NHRIs and build their capacity on the relevant EU law, as well as strengthen the mutual learning and cooperation between NHRIs across the EU, national actors, and EU institutions to promote the rights of suspects and accused persons.

Procedural rights in criminal proceedings is not only essential for the right to a fair trial but also a measure to prevent torture and other forms of ill-treatment. The EU has adopted six directives on procedural rights as set out in the roadmap of 2009, including the right to information, the right to interpretation and translation, the right of access to a lawyer and to legal aid, the right to presumption of innocence, and the rights of vulnerable persons. Nevertheless, there are numerous challenges regarding how procedural rights are applied in practice, as the recent study ‘Inside Police Custody 2’, shows.

The Ludwig Boltzmann Institute has produced a Baseline Study for the project to provide an overview on NHRIs’ role on the protection and promotion of the rights of suspects and accused in criminal proceedings. During the workshop, the first findings were discussed as well as the challenges and opportunities that NHRIs encounter when working in this area. The study shows that although almost all NHRIs have worked on procedural safeguards in criminal proceedings, procedural rights do not seem to be among their priorities. However, due to their broad mandate, NHRIs would be ideally placed to safeguard the rights of those who fall outside the protection of other institutions.

During the workshop, Moritz Birk from the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute pointed out how NHRIs could to step up their efforts regarding procedural safeguards and see how to complement the work of Fair Trials as monitoring of procedural safeguards cannot be left only to networks like LEAP.

The workshop showed positive signs of NHRIs growing awareness of the EU Directives on procedural rights and how best to make use of them – mostly from a prevention of torture point of view, but also beyond. Collaboration between NHRIs and lawyers is still rather limited and focuses mostly on individual cases, and this could be an area for further support.

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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