03-13-2010, 11:26 AM
Direct Action Resistance Fighter
Joined: Aug 2006
Britons arrested abroad will lose the right to a translator
Quote:Britain has backed plans to "dilute" the rights of its citizens when extradited or caught up in criminal proceedings in other European countries.
Justice campaigners say anyone facing criminal allegations abroad under a European Arrest Warrant will be hit by the plan.
The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe has accused Britain of pushing for procedures that do not provide proper protection for suspects.
The CCBE, which represents one million European lawyers, is concerned because the right to translation has been limited to only "essential" documents – a "formula which is too vague and open to abuse".
Under EU legislation, British courts must allow a European Arrest Warrant extradition to take place even if there are concerns about the standards of justice in the country that they are being sent to.
Fair trial campaigners say people will be deported to countries such as Portugal, Hungary, Greece and Bulgaria where charges are made and trials held without an English translation allowing them to follow proceedings.
The European Commission had proposed measures to ensure suspects must be shown a translation of all relevant documents.
Viviane Reding, the European justice commissioner, said: "You cannot have a fair trial if the accused does not understand the language of the proceedings. EU citizens should never feel that their rights are weakened because they left home. Nonetheless, this is what can happen when people are sent abroad to stand trial."
But in a letter, seen by The Daily Telegraph, Britain has joined a group of 13 other governments which are trying to dilute the legislation.
Britain has also supported a loophole that would allow a suspect to give up his rights without a lawyer present and without any written evidence, a move that could easily allow police officers to ignore the translation requirements altogether.
Catherine Heard, Policy Officer at Fair Trials International, said: "Under Europe's fast-track extradition system, we are expected to send our citizens across Europe to face trial without asking too many questions.
"As things stand, there is no guarantee that they will be treated fairly and our cases at FTI demonstrate that many aren't. Until reforms are introduced giving suspects basic rights like access to a lawyer and an interpreter, we will see many more cases of injustice."
A British government spokesman denied the watered-down proposals fall below EU human rights standards. "It is only a proposal and negotiations are not yet over," he said.
A new EU-Britain borders agreement that enters into force next month means that the number of people sent to face justice overseas will treble.
Under Schengen Information II rules anyone who has a European Arrest Warrant issued against them will be automatically taken into custody.
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