What is EU's approach?
In 2012, the EU introduced Directive 2012/13 on the right to information in criminal proceedings. EU Member States had been given until 2 June 2014 to introduce national legislative measures that would ensure the rights stipulated in the Directive.
Its demands are that suspects and accused persons be informed immediately of their rights. This information should be provided in simple and accessible language, taking into account the specific needs of vulnerable suspects and accused persons, including minors, foreigners, and people with intellectual disabilities. The information of the detainees must be provided in the form of a written declaration. The declaration should include information on two main groups of rights - common procedural rights, which all suspects and accused persons have, regardless of whether they are detained or not (right of access to a lawyer, legal aid, right to translation, etc.) and special procedural rights that arise only in the event of arrest and detention (right to emergency medical care, right of access to case materials, right to inform consular authorities and another person, etc.), as well as additional information on the possibility to appeal the lawfulness of the arrest and review the detention.
Research on the Declarations of Human Rights of Detainees
Three years after the deadline for transposition of the Directive into the European Union, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, in partnership with Fair Trials, , the Lithuanian Human Rights Monitoring Institute and Rights International – Spain, has published a comparative study on the application of the obligation to provide declarations of the persons detained in the criminal proceedings. The conclusions of the study were presented at an official event in the European Parliament in Brussels on May 29, 2017, and on June 16 in Sofia, the BHC announced the findings and recommendations of the national study on the topic. A summary of it can be seen here.
Areas Requiring Further Work
Pan-European problems identified in the comparative study
In practice, detainees are not always given a declaration of their rights
When they are given a declaration of their rights, people are often not given enough time to read and understand it. In Spain, for example, some of the interviewed judges and translators said that suspects and accused persons receive a lot of information in a short amount of time and find it difficult to take it all in.
In some EU countries, not all rights are included in the declarations of human rights. In France, for example, information on the right to legal aid is not provided.
A translation of the declaration of human rights are not always provided to people who do not understand the language. In Lithuania, for example, the authorities only provide interpretation.
Police authorities continue to try to dissuade people from exercising their rights, especially with regard to the right of access to a lawyer and the right of a person to remain silent, and in many places there are insufficient guarantees to prevent this practice.
The biggest challenge, however, is the clarity of the declarations of human rights. In most countries, the documents are written in legal terminology, complex sentences and in a confusing format, which makes it extremely difficult for non-professionals to understand their rights. Elsewhere, declarations of human rights are oversimplified and do not provide enough information for a full understanding of rights.
Specific Problems Identified in the National Survey for Bulgaria
The most significant and specific problem for Bulgaria alone is the non-recognition of the quality of "suspects in criminal proceedings" of persons who have been detained by the police on suspicion of a crime, but against whom no charges have been formally filed. As a result, this category of detainees remains deprived of all fundamental procedural rights to a defense in the investigation started against them, listed in the Directive, and the declarations of rights they receive contain only information about their rights as detainees. In 2016 alone, the number of suspects detained by police was close to 45,000.
You can read the entire European research on the declarations of detainees' rights here, as well as the Bulgarian report here.