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Handbook on access to justice in Europe published
In partnership with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) has published a handbook which highlights and summarises the key principles in the area of access to justice, in particular those developed under Article 47 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (EUCFR) and Articles 6 and 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The handbook is meant to raise awareness and knowledge about the different avenues available to access justice. Access to justice is a core fundamental right according to the EUCFR and a human right under the ECHR. Access to justice enables parties whose rights have been infringed to effectively enforce their rights and obtain a remedy. The handbook provides an accessible summary and analysis of the relevant case law of the EU Court of Justice and the ECtHR, supplemented by – where available – national jurisprudence, on key topics in the area of access to justice. With respect to consumer law, the handbook refers to EU initiatives on ADR in the field of consumer protection, as well as specific remedies for consumers.

This handbook provides an overview of key aspects of access to justice in Europe, with specific reference to relevant rights provided in the Council of Europe’s European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, as interpreted by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). Access to justice is not just a right in itself but also empowers individuals to enforce other rights. This handbook is broad in scope, covering criminal and civil law. Existing FRA-ECtHR handbooks on European law relating to asylum, borders and immigration and to the rights of the child contain analyses on access to justice by asylum-seekers and children; therefore, these areas are not covered in this handbook.The handbook is designed to assist legal practitioners who do not specialise in access to justice matters, serving as an introduction to key issues involved. It is intended for lawyers, judges, and other legal practitioners, as well as for persons who work with entities that deal with the administration of and access to justice, including non-governmental organisations (NGOs) involved in litigation. The handbook can also be used for legal research or public advocacy purposes. It is designed to permit practitioners to refer directly to specific sections/topics as required; it is not necessary to read the handbook as a whole. This handbook focuses on criminal and civil law. While administrative law is explored in relation to environmental law (see Chapter 8), this generally falls outside of its scope. The handbook concerns application of the law at national level, so does not address issues of standing and admissibility before the ECtHR and CJEU, except where this aids the understanding of individual rights. Similarly, international instruments and case law, and national case law, are only referenced when these help understand the points made.

It contains seven substantive chapters covering the following issues:
• a fair and public hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal (including the right to access courts, the scope of the right to a fair and public hearing, and alternative paths to justice);
• legal aid (including the ‘financial and merits’ tests and the ‘interests of justice’ test for criminal proceedings);
• the right to be advised, defended and represented (including the quality of legal assistance, the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare one’s defence, and the right to waive representation);
• the right to an effective remedy (including its substantive and institutional requirements, as well as examples of available remedies);
• limitations on access to justice in general (including the nature of permissible restrictions and examples of limitations);
• limitations on access to justice: the length of proceedings (including criteria for determining the length’s reasonableness);
• access to justice in select focus areas (regarding which specific principles have been developed, including persons with disabilities, victims of crime, prisoners and pre-trial detainees and environmental law and e-justice).

ID: 49038
Publication date: 04/07/16

Handbook on European law relating to access to justice

Created: 04/07/16. Last changed: 04/07/16.
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