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European Union: Notice of Rights for Suspects and the Accused in Criminal Proceedings

(June 27, 2012) On June 1, 2012, Directive 2012/13/EU on the Right to Information in Criminal Proceedings entered into force. (2012 OFFICIAL JOURNAL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION (142/1) (May 22, 2012), EUR-LEX.)

Directive 2012/13/EU establishes rules pertaining to the right to information about the procedural rights of accused persons and suspects in criminal proceedings, irrespective of their legal status, citizenship, or nationality in the European Union. Its scope also extends to persons subject to the European Arrest Warrant (EAW). The use of the latterbegan in 2004, replacing the extradition system in the EU. The EAW is valid throughout the EU and requires the state where the accused is found to transfer him to the issuing state. (Council Framework Decision 2002/584/JHA of 13 June 2002 on the European Arrest Warrant and the Surrender Procedures Between Member States (as amended), EUROPA.)

According to Directive 2012/13/EU, EU Member States are obliged to ensure that suspects and the accused are promptly informed, orally or in writing, of their right:

  • of access to a lawyer and to any free legal advice;
  • to be informed of the accusation in a language that is understood; and
  • to remain silent. (Directive 2012/13/EU, supra.)

At the time of arrest, the accused and anyone who is a suspect must be handed a Letter of Rights, in a language that they understand, which, in addition to the rights stated above, must inform them of their rights of access to:

  • the materials of the case;
  • consular authorities;
  • urgent medical assistance; and
  • information on the number of hours or days they will be detained before they are brought before a judicial authority. (Id.)

Individuals who are arrested on the basis of the European Arrest Warrant must similarly be given a Letter of Rights providing information on their basic rights. (Id.)

Directive 2012/13/EU contains two annexes: (a) a model Letter of Rights and (b) a model of Letter or Rights Under the European Arrest Warrant. (Id.)

EU Members are required to transpose the directive into national law by June 2014. (Id.)