The right to be informed in criminal proceedings, regulated under a new European law

The Council gave its green light to the Directive on the right to information in criminal proceedings, that establishes that suspects of a criminal offence will be informed of their rights in a language they understand. This measure has been taken in order to ensure defendants' right to information during criminal proceedings in the EU.

The 'Directive on the right to information in criminal proceedings' was approved by the EU Justice Ministers on 27 of April following a Ministers agreement reached in November 2011. It will ensure that police and prosecutors provide suspects with information about their rights. Following an arrest, authorities will give this information in writing – in a Letter of Rights – drafted in simple, everyday language. It will be provided to suspects upon arrest in all cases, whether they ask for it or not, and it will be translated if needed.

This new law will enter into force two years after it is published in the EU's Official Journal, – which is expected to take place within weeks. It will apply to an estimated 8 million criminal proceedings every year in all EU 27 Member States. Currently this right only exists in about one third of Member States. In some Member States, suspects only receive oral information about their procedural rights, and in others the written information is not given unless requested.

The Council approved thus the second measure launched by the European Commission in order to ensure fair trial rights in the EU. In June 2011, the Commission put forward a third measure to guarantee access to a lawyer and to communicate with relatives. The proposal is currently under discussion in the European Parliament and in the Council.