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Fair trial defenders meet in Zagreb to discuss justice in Europe and the ways forward

admin - March 12, 2019 - LEAP, LEAP annual conference

 

Fair trial defenders from across Europe are meeting in Zagreb, Croatia, on 15 and 16 March. The conference gathers over 80 criminal justice experts, including many members of the Legal Experts Advisory Panel (LEAP).

The weekend provides an opportunity to share the success stories in the fight for fundamental human rights in European criminal justice systems as well as to discuss the pressing challenges and ways to overcome them. This year’s conference will focus on three themes: cross-border justice, implementation in the EU, and discrimination. The event will also hear about LEAP members’ achievements from the past year, Fair Trials’ transatlantic work, as well as the impact of the EU over the last five years on the criminal justice in Croatia.

Cross border justice

The last twelve months has arguably seen a crisis of mutual trust in Europe, with question marks remaining over extradition requests to Poland and what can be done to ensure that defence rights and the rule of law are being respected. The issues around mutual trust will be discussed by Gwen Jansen from Gwen Jansen Advocatuur, Andras Kadar from Hungarian Helsinki Committee, and Maria Radziejowska from Kancelaria Pietrzak Sidor & Wspólnicy, facilitated by Fair Trials’ Senior Lawyer Laure Baudrihaye-Gérard.

After the plenary session, mutual trust in crisis will be looked into more in detail during a break-out group session in order to find further examples of misuse of EAWs, and explore what possible next steps we can take to improve the measure. The second break-out session on cross-border justice will be about law enforcement access to electronic data. It will give a brief on the EU e-evidence proposals and considers what safeguards should be introduced to ensure procedural defence rights are protected under the new measures – and what role LEAP can play in the development of the proposal. The last cross-border justice break-out session will be a discussion on the abuse of INTERPOL’s system and LEAP members’ experiences with Red Notices.

Implementation in the EU

Since 2009, the EU has adopted 6 directives on procedural rights for suspects and accused persons. The second plenary discussion will look into how well the Measures have been implemented so far and consider the impact that the Directives have had across Europe on national practice. The panel consists of Ingrid Breit from the European Commission, Alex Tinsley from Church Court Chambers, and Katarzyna Wiśniewska from Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, and Dilyana Angelova from Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, and will be facilitated by Fair Trials’ Chief Executive Jago Russell.

The first break-out group on implementation will be focusing on a new area of work for Fair Trials: audiovisual recording, which is a simple and practical measure that can create more transparency and accountability in pre-trial proceedings. The second break-out group session will consider threats to effective assistance: despite caselaw, most prominently Salduz, and the EU directives, there are ongoing challenges with early access to a lawyer. The session will look into the exclusionary rule, waivers and the classification of suspects, and examples of best practice, as well as the steps lawyers themselves can make to ensure effective assistance. The third break-out group on implementation will be dedicated to CJEU and how it can work as an as an avenue for LEAP members to ensure implementation of Roadmap rights; Fair Trials has developed a toolkit for assisting in making preliminary references to the CJEU, which will be discussed during the session.

Discrimination

The plenary discussion on discrimination will consider criminal justice and vulnerable individuals and groups and the need for specific safeguards at EU level. The EU has recognized the need for special protections in the context of children but committed to protections for a broader group of vulnerable suspects. Last year, Fair Trials completed a project looking at advancing the defence rights of children, and this session will consider whether the Directive does what is set out to do. The panel, consisting of Ingrid Breit from the European Commission, Nicoletta Charalambidou from KISA, Annika Åkerberg from Civil Rights Defenders, and facilitated by Fair Trials’ Senior Legal Adviser Bruno Min, will discuss also whether further safeguards are needed.

Fair Trials has just started coordinating a project which will focus on discrimination against Roma people. The first break-out group on discrimination will focus on ethnic inequality in criminal justice systems and considers its causes and ways to fight them. The session will be also a start for building a network of anti-discrimination champions in Europe. The second break-out session will look into how criminal prosecution disproportionately impacts the poor, and includes a contribution from Mitali Nagrecha, Director of the Fees and Fines project of the Criminal Justice Policy Project at Harvard University. The conference’s final session before the closing remarks will be a break-out group on how plain language helps access to justice; more specifically, how accessibility of letters of rights can be increased. The aim is to promote the concept of plain language amongst LEAP membership and to learn about the current situation across the EU.

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71.

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