EU criminal suspects to get letter of rights

Updated: 2011-12-14 10:03


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STRASBOURG, France - Criminal suspects in European Union (EU) countries will soon be given a "letter of rights" listing their basic rights during criminal proceedings, following an approval from European Parliament on Tuesday.

The proposal, put forward by the European Commission last year, was passed with 663 votes in favor, 24 against and 17 abstentions during a plenary session of the Parliament on Tuesday in the French city of Strasbourg.

"The EU is taking strong action to strengthen the rights of individuals in criminal procedures and to improve mutual trust in the area of freedom, security and justice," Viviane Reding, the EU's justice commissioner, said Tuesday after the vote.

According to the proposal, a suspect of criminal offence should receive the "letter of rights" following the arrest, which will be easy to understand without legal jargons and available in a language that he or she understands.

The commission, the EU's executive arm, has provided member states with a model letter to be translated into 23 EU languages.

It is supposed to become EU law after getting a final adoption by the EU Council in the coming weeks and EU member states should have two years to implement it into their national laws.

Britain and Ireland have confirmed their willingness to participate in the planned law while Denmark still prefers to remain its opt-out.

There are over eight million criminal proceedings in the EU every year. In some member states, suspects only receive oral information about their procedural rights while in others the written information is not given unless demanded.

Together with the directive on the right to translation and interpretation that was adopted last year, the right to information in criminal proceedings is one in a series of fair trial measures that aims to boost confidence in the EU's single area of justice.