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European NGOs praise provisional legal aid directive

The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) of the European Parliament has approved the wording of the directive on provisional legal aid for suspects or accused persons deprived of liberty and legal aid in European arrest warrant proceedings.

Establishing standard minimum rules for provisional legal aid is another stage in the creation of uniform procedural safeguards in criminal proceedings for all EU Member States. Earlier adopted directives concerned, among other things, suspects’ rights to translation and interpretation from a foreign language, right to information, and right to a lawyer in criminal proceedings.

The draft directive approved by LIBE stipulates that Member States will finance legal aid provided to suspects and accused persons. Thanks to this arrangement, such persons will be able to exercise the right to access a professional’s assistance in criminal proceedings. The procedure in question will also apply to persons detained under the European arrest warrant. The directive also provides that states will be able to introduce specific criteria for the award of such financing. All decisions about financing should be taken immediately, and should address the needs of particularly vulnerable persons. Decisions refusing the grant of legal aid should be subject to appellate review.

Members of the European Legal Network JUSTICIA have welcomed the adoption of the text of the Directive with great enthusiasm. Non-governmental organisations from 17 EU countries have issued a joint communique on the matter. The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights is one of the signatories to the communique. “Thanks to the directive, citizens of the European Union will be reassured that if they are arrested or detained, their rights in the criminal process will be granted comparable protection in each of the Member States. Obviously, the manner of the directive’s implementation will depend on the good will of Member States’ governments”, notes Katarzyna Wiśniewska, a lawyer of the HFHR.

The joint statement of the JUSTICIA Network may be accessed here.


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