EU must defend the right of access to a lawyer
(Brussels, 27 October 2011) As the European Union’s Justice & Home Affairs Council prepares to discuss a European Commission legislative proposal on the right of access to a lawyer, Amnesty International has expressed concern that the Council’s negotiations may weaken the fundamental right of all people to a fair trial, and challenge the EU’s responsibility to improve human rights enforcement standards across the Union.
“The principle of confidentiality between lawyers and their clients is indispensable in all cases,” said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office. “Any attempt to exempt particular crimes such as terrorism would set back the development of international human rights standards and would negate all the lessons learnt from the excesses in terrorism-related trials over the past decade.”
“The European Commission’s proposal builds on well-established case-law and empirical evidence. Instead of challenging interpretation of European human rights law and member states’ legal obligations, the Council should use this directive to develop further progressive human rights standards and improve their implementation in EU countries”, said Beger.
Amnesty International has:-
• Warned against exceptions to the right of access to a lawyer, and limiting a lawyer’s activities. It insists that a person’s access to a lawyer while in police custody plays a fundamental role in safeguarding them against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
• Stressed that the issues at stake are not political, but pertain to international human rights law and thus constitute binding principles for every EU country and cannot be disregarded
• Urged the Polish EU presidency to use the remainder of its term to take the lead in ensuring that the negotiations preserve the highest protection for human rights
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