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Fair trial rights: European Commission proposal giving citizens the right to information in criminal proceedings to become law

 "You have the right to… - a Letter of Rights". Soon this will be the reality for anyone who is arrested or detained anywhere in the European Union. EU Justice Ministers recently adopted a new law that the European Commission had proposed to ensure defendants' right to information during criminal proceedings. Under the 'Directive on the right to information in criminal proceedings', suspects of a criminal offence will be informed of their rights in a language they understand. The measure will ensure that EU countries will give anyone arrested – or subject to a European Arrest Warrant – a Letter of Rights listing their basic rights during criminal proceedings. Once it will have entered into force (two years after it is published in the EU's Official Journal – which is expected to take place within weeks), the new law 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.

"The right to a fair trial is one of the central pillars of our justice systems in Europe," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner. "This new EU law will help to safeguard this right by ensuring everyone is clearly and promptly informed of their rights. Today is a milestone in our common efforts to ensure Europeans have access to justice, wherever they are in the EU. I want to thank the European Parliament and the EU Justice Ministers for their support of the Commission proposal. It sets a good precedent for a Europe of rights and justice that it was possible to make this fair trial right a reality for Europe's 500 million citizens so swiftly."

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