Clear rules important to avoid impunity, combat organised crime

Assita Kanko MEP @Assita_Kanko
"We are now ensuring that justice in EU-countries works better and faster and that our citizens are protected and respected,” said rapporteur Assita Kanko.

Civil Liberties Committee MEPs have adopted a draft position on establishing EU rules for the transfer of criminal proceedings in cross-border cases.

On Tuesday, MEPs on the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs adopted their draft position on a new law on transferring criminal proceedings between EU member states, with 54 in favour, 1 against, and 0 abstaining.

To replace the current, varied measures for transferring criminal procedures between EU member states, the proposal would create a coherent legal framework for such cases. This would speed up investigations, particularly into serious organised crime, which often crosses borders. In future, conflicting procedural rules and a lack of coordination between EU countries would no longer hinder the administration of justice. The new proposal would also reduce the amount of parallel proceedings in several countries, and ensure that no one is convicted of the same offense twice.

The law would allow judges, courts of other authorities in one member state (“the requesting authority”) to request a transfer to their counterpart in another member state (“the requested authority”) in certain cases, for example when the crime was committed in the target country, committed by residents or nationals of that country, the evidence is mainly found in that country, or damages have mainly occurred there.

Transferring proceedings to another country, for example one where a suspect or victim is a resident, can support the gathering of evidence and ensure that suspects and witnesses can be heard in trials. The requested authority can refuse a request in certain cases, including when the act in question is not a criminal offence in the requested state.

In their draft negotiating position, MEPs adopted amendments to the European Commission proposal. They want to clarify the rules on informing suspects and victims of decisions, in line with other EU legislation on victims’ rights, and ensure that the requested state has jurisdiction to investigate the crimes in question.

The proposal also includes safeguards for the rights of suspects and accused persons, including the right to be informed of the transfer beforehand in a language they understand and voice their opinion. Also, they have the right to legal remedies against transfer decisions. Similarly, the victims have a right to be informed of a transfer of proceedings and can voice their opinion, which will also be taken into account when considering the transfer decision. MEPs want to ensure that suspects, accused persons and victims have access to effective legal remedies.

After the vote, rapporteur Assita Kanko (ECR, Belgium) said: “Better justice builds safer countries and homes for our citizens. This legislation is a crucial step towards better judicial cooperation and faster law enforcement. This is particularly important when investigating cross border organised crime such as terrorism, human, drugs and firearm trafficking, migrant smuggling, cybercrime or money laundering. Victims wait too long. We are now ensuring that justice in EU-countries works better and faster and that our citizens are protected and respected.”

Interinstitutional negotiations were authorised with 53 votes in favour, 0 against, and 1 abstention. The draft negotiating mandate will be tabled for a future plenary of the European Parliament, which needs to endorse it before negotiations can begin.

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