Rights in Criminal Proceedings Tightened Across EU

(CN) – Taken for granted in the United States, people across the European Union now enjoy the presumption of innocence and the rights to remain silent and be present at criminal proceedings after new rules took effect this week.

Though already enshrined in the EU constitution, the presumption of innocence and the rights to remain silent and present at trial are not guaranteed in all member states. The European Commission has been working to make judicial proceedings uniform across the EU, and the rules that took effect Sunday are part of that effort.

“Nine million people face criminal proceedings across the EU every year. Presumption of innocence is a fundamental right and must be respected in practice everywhere in Europe. Every citizen must always be guaranteed a fair trial. I call on all Member States to implement the rules as quickly as possible,” Justice commissioner Vera Jourova said in a statement Tuesday.

The new rules bar officials and judicial officers from making public references to guilt until a suspect has been proven guilty and give suspects the right to remain silent. And if a suspect is denied the right to be present at trial, a new trial must be ordered.

According to the commission, an overhaul of procedural rights is long overdue and necessary so suspects know what to expect regardless of where they are in the EU and what member state they hail from. The new rules should also bring about better judicial cooperation across member states, the commission said.

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