EU citizens who are arrested or accused of a crime now have the right to receive interpretation in their own language in all courts in the European Union.
The change, which will see legal translation services become a much more pivotal part of legal proceedings, guarantees that EU citizens will be interviewed, take part in hearings and receive legal advice in their own language during any part of a criminal case.
The deadline for implementation of the Directive on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings was October 27th, so all EU states should now have adopted the legislation.
The reform was proposed by the European Commission in 2010 and adopted by the European Parliament and Council of Ministers in just nine months.
“This can be an historic moment for justice in Europe: the first ever law on fair-trial rights for citizens will become a concrete reality – if member states live up to their legal obligations,” said EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding.
Reding warned that states who fail to meet the new legislation will be investigated.
“I expect member states to deliver too,” she said. “The European Commission will soon report on who has done their homework. We will not shy away from naming and shaming – after all, this law goes to the very heart of citizens’ rights.”
The rules obliging EU countries to provide full interpretation and translation services to suspects forms part of a series of fair trial measures to set common EU standards in criminal cases.
Others include the right to information in criminal proceedings and the right to access to a lawyer.
“The Commission is set to continue with its roadmap in this area of justice with proposals for another set of fair trial rights for citizens expected before the end of 2013,” said a statement from the EU Commission.
Under the directive, translation and interpretation costs will have to be met by the member state, not by those arrested or accused of a crime.
The EU Commission said the minimum common standards would give member states’ judicial authorities more confidence when sending someone to face trial in another country.