It’s ‘Fundamental Rights February!’ – this month we focus on the theme of ‘Fundamental Rights,’ with a variety of contributions from external authors as well as our office which focus on certain Articles contained within the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU (the ‘Charter’).
Going back to basics for a moment to look at the Charter and understand its significance for EU citizens. The Charter brings together various rights, (civil, political, economic and social) of everyone living in the EU. It was introduced to bring consistency and clarity to the rights established at different times and in different ways in individual EU Member States. The Charter became legally binding on EU Member States when the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force in December 2009. It has been hugely important in upholding human rights within EU law and in achieving consistency across member states.
Right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial
Under Article 47 of the Charter, “Everyone shall have the possibility of being advised, defended and represented. Legal aid shall be made available to those who lack sufficient resources in so far as such aid is necessary to ensure effective access to justice.” In the UK for example, with the introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012 we saw extensive cuts to legal aid. This month, Cris McCurley from The Law Society’s Access to Justice Committee discusses the recent changes to legal aid for domestic abuse cases. We are also pleased to include a contribution from the Head of the CCBE’s Human Rights Committee, Patrick Henry discussing the importance of the role lawyers in achieving justice and the significance of the CCBE’s Human Rights Award.
Right to life Article 2
With the Knesset giving preliminary approval for legislation that would make it easier for a court to impose a death sentence for murder in attacks classified as terrorism in Israel we thought it prudent to reinforce the importance of Article 2. Under Article 2 of the Charter, “Everyone has the right to life. No one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed.” This month we have the pleasure of enclosing a contribution from the Death Penalty Project focussing on their work in Kenya to abolish the death penalty. On the same topic, NGO, Hands off Cain discuss their international campaign to end the death penalty.
Right to equality between men and women Article 23
Under Article 23, “Equality between men and women must be ensured in all areas, including employment, work and pay.” This month saw the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote – a great step for equality but as the gender pay gap shows us, there is still some way to go.
Right to freedom of expression and information Article 11
Under Article 11 “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression”. We discuss the action being taken at an EU level to combat online hate speech whilst preserving this fundamental right.
The area of Justice and Home Affairs presents distinctive challenges in light of Brexit, as the UK’s current participation in EU information sharing mechanisms is fairly patchy. Instruments such as the European Arrest Warrant and participation in judicial and police cooperation are of great importance to the legal profession and the impact of Brexit in these areas has not yet been considered fully.
The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU (the Charter) brought together the rights protected under EU law in a single document. It reaffirmed the rights and principles that already existed in EU law and was given legal effect by the Lisbon Treaty on its entry into force in December 2009. Article 6(1) Treaty on European Union (TEU) provides for the Charter to have the same legal status as the EU Treaties.
Civil society organisations (“CSO”) in the EU play a crucial role in promoting fundamental rights. The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (“EUAFR”) cooperates and consults with such organisations, with recent findings showing that they are struggling more and more to make in impact within the Union, due to both legal and practical constraints. In January 2018, citing the purported lack of data and research of the nature of different challenges in EU member states, the EUAFR ...
All Europeans are entitled to the right to freedom and expression under the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. Article 11 states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.”
For over thirty years, The Death Penalty Project has worked to protect the rights of those facing the death penalty, providing free legal representation to prisoners and promoting respect for human rights and the rule of law. Co-Executive Directors Saul Lehrfreund and Parvais Jabbar say litigation has played critical role in the fight against the death penalty, but wider engagement is needed to achieve lasting change.