Les députés européens de la commission libertés civiles, justice et affaires intérieures (LIBE) ont adopté à une très large unanimité (51 vois pour, 2 contre, 4 abstentions) le 10 juillet leur avis sur la proposition de directive relative à l’accès à l’avocat pendant la garde à vue, une pièce essentielle des droits fondamentaux. Il a donné au rapporteur Elena Oana Antonescu (PPE, Roumaine) mandat pour négocier avec le Conseil.
Le texte adopté prévoit que toute personne arrêtée, suspectée ou accusée de crime, pourra parler à un avocat » dès que possible et avant que la police ne commence à l’interroger », les députés ajoutant que cet accès contrairement à ce qu’a souhaité le Conseil, ne soit pas seulement réservé aux personnes privées de liberté, mais aussi aux personnes qui ne seraient pas en état d’arrestation. Autre différence avec le compromis sur lequel le Conseil était tombé d’accord le 8 juin dernier, le refus de toute dérogation au principe de confidentialité des discussions entre l’avocat et son client. Les députés estiment aussi qu’aucune entrave ne doit exister concernant le respect de la confidentialité d’autres types de conversation, par exemple les conversations téléphoniques des suspects ou accusés.. Le 8 juin dans son compromis le Conseil avait permis certaines dérogations à ce principe de confidentialité ce qui avait amené l’Espagne, l’Italie et la Commission à adopter une déclaration dans laquelle toutes les trois exprimaient leur refus de ces dérogations tout en se déclarant ouvertes au compromis qu’elles ne veulent pas bloquer.
Selon le texte adopté par les députés, les suspects et accusés en état d’arrestation auront encore le droit d’informer une personne de leur choix, comme un parent ou un employeur, de leur arrestation. La commission LIBE souligne aussi le fait que les suspects et les accusés doivent également avoir le droit de s’entretenir en privé avec les personnes qu’ils choisissent d’appeler ainsi qu’avec les autorités consulaires ou diplomatiques.
Le texte approuvé concerne encore le droit d’accès à un avocat dans le pays responsable de l’affaire pour les personnes arrêtées dans le cadre d’un mandat d’arrêt européen. Actuellement les personnes sous mandat d’arrêt européen ne peuvent avoir accès à un avocat aussi longtemps qu’elles n’ont pas été remises au pays où le mandat a été émis. Comme c’est souvent le cas, le Royaume-Uni, l’Irlande et le Danemark ne participent pas à ce texte (clause d’opting out).
Trouver un compromis ne sera pas facile, s’agissant d’un dossier sous haute surveillance. Tout d’abord des avocats européen : Nea say a rendu compte de la prise de position ferme du Conseil des barreaux d’Europe (CCBE) http://www.eu-logos.org/eu-logos_nea-say.php?idnl=2520
De son côté Amnesty vient de transmettre aux parlementaires européens une prise de position détaillée
Texte de Amnesty International
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL’S VOTING RECOMMENDATIONS
ACCESS TO A LAWYER DIRECTIVE
We particularly welcome the following compromises, and urge their approval: Comp Am 3 – Article 3.1 a: Recognising that access to a lawyer should be granted at least ‘before the start of any questioning by the law enforcement or judicial authorities, irrespective of whether the person is deprived of liberty or not’. This ensures that all situations where a person is questioned in the context of a criminal investigation or proceeding are covered by the Directive
Comp Am 6 – Article 4.2: Recognising the right for the lawyer to be present ‘at any questioning and hearing’, and ‘ask questions, request clarifications and make statements, which shall be recorded in accordance with national law’. Any limitations on the activities the lawyer can undertake would contravene international standards, which establish that lawyers should not be limited or hampered in their provision of legal assistance during questioning, and should be able to participate fully during it to protect their clients’ rights (see inter al. ECtHR, Dayanan v Turkey). We also welcome recognition of the lawyer’s right to be present and request evidence gathering himself in connection with the charges (see Comp Am 6 last sentence: ‘The lawyer shall also have the right to present evidence in connection with the charges and to request the investigating authority or the court to gather any evidence relevant to the court charges’)
COMP Am 8 – Article 4.4: Recognising suspect and accused people’s right to have their lawyer examine the specific conditions in which they are detained and to that end have access to the place where they are detained. We are only concerned that the wording in the last sentence (‘the lawyer shall have the right to submit a request to the competent authority in order to ask the examination of the detention conditions’) is unclear and may suggest that someone else, and not the lawyer him/herself may carry out the requested examination. Something like ‘so as to ask for authorisation to examine’ would be more appropriate
COMP Am 9 – Article 5.1: Recognising the right to communicate and meet privately on arrest with at least one person of one’s choosing, in addition to the right to have a third person informed of the deprivation of liberty. However, we regret that there is still no amendment which reflects the need to address situations where attempts to contact the person named are unsuccessful, by providing that one person may name another and that all reasonable attempts should be made in such cases to ensure the person is still able to communicate with someone else of his/her own choosing
Ø COMP Am 11 – Article 6 : We welcome changes to the provision, especially specifying that those deprived of liberty who are non-nationals have the right not only to have consular and diplomatic authorities of their state of nationality ‘informed promptly upon their deprivation of liberty about the deprivation of liberty’ and to communicate with them, but also ‘to be visited’ by them ‘in private’, and that such authorities have ‘the right to visit such persons, to arrange for their legal representation and to observe court proceedings in relation to the person’. However, in the last sentence ‘may’ should be replaced by ‘shall’. Otherwise, there will be no obligation on member states to grant consular authorities the right to visit their nationals, arrange for their legal representation and observe court proceedings
COMP Am 12 – Article 7: Recognising that there should be no exceptions to the principle of absolute confidentiality of communications between lawyers and their clients. The principle has been recognised by the ECtHR and the UN as a key factor in a lawyer’s effective representation of a client’s interests and a basic element of a fair trial. Any attempt to introduce exceptions would constitute a serious set-back in the development of international human rights standards. We therefore strongly oppose any such attempt (as in amendments 139, 140) and recommend that they are not approved
We have concerns about the following compromises and urge you to vote against them: COMP Am 14 – Article 8.1 b: It is crucial to maintain that derogations are not based exclusively on the type or seriousness of the alleged offence. We are concerned that, if the provision does not include ‘seriousness’, this might become a leading consideration when deciding on derogations. On the contrary, we believe that proceedings against terrorist suspects or other serious security situations are often precisely those which are most susceptible to human rights violations or allegations, and that it is therefore more important in such situations that anyone detained on suspicion of committing such crimes receives the protections provided for under international human rights law. We therefore urge you to vote against this amendment.
For the same reason, we strongly oppose amendments which would allow derogations based on an alleged connection between the case and particular types of offence, such as terrorism or organised crime (such as COMP Am 24 and amendment 143 and 144), as opposed to requiring specific evidence that demonstrates in the individual case ‘compelling reasons…pertaining to the urgent need to avert serious adverse consequences for the life or physical integrity of a person’ (as in Article 8.1 a).
It is also crucial that derogations ‘may only be authorised by a duly reasoned decision taken by an independent judicial authority on a case-by-case basis’ (as in amendment 149). What is more, such judicial decisions should always be open to challenge or review on their legal and factual basis, and this should be reflected in the Directive. We recommend that any amendments which drift away from these principles (especially suggesting that decisions on derogations might be taken by an authority other than a judicial one), are not approved.
We also believe that ‘as much as possible’ in Article 8 1 d) is not a sufficiently demanding standard. ‘Strictly’ would be more appropriate. The ECtHR and UN Human Rights Committee have both indicated on several occasions that access to a lawyer within 48 hours is a basic safeguard also in emergency situations which would potentially allow for other derogations, and that postponing access to a lawyer for more than 48 hours is unacceptable. This is also recognised by the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers. We therefore recommend that, if a maximum time limit cannot be established, at minimum a more demanding standard (as the one which would be reflected by the term ‘strictly’ in amendment 146) is introduced.
Also, we support amendments which provide that ‘the grounds and criteria for derogations listed above must be clearly set out in national law’ (see amendment 150).
COMP Am 17 – Article 13 (and COMP Am 25 – Recital 27): It is essential to ensure that access to an effective remedy is provided in all alleged cases of violation of the rights provided by the directive, and that remedies are granted whenever violations are established. This includes the point that statements made by the suspect or accused and evidence obtained in breach of their right to a lawyer or in cases where a derogation to this right was authorised, may not be used at any stage of the procedure as evidence against them. This is has been emphasised by the ECtHR in Salduz v Turkey, where the Grand Chamber stated that the rights of the defence would always be ‘irretrievably prejudiced when incriminating statements made during police interrogation without access to a lawyer are used for a conviction’. A provision on remedies which did not include such a prohibition or allows exceptions to it would clearly and directly contravene the ECHR and Article 47 of the EU Charter. We therefore urge you to vote against this amendment.
For the same reasons we recommend that amendments which do not include such a prohibition (amendment 173) or give member states discretion in determining whether to use statements or evidence obtained from suspects or accused persons in their lawyers’ absence and which value to give to them (amendments 174, 175, 177) are not approved.
The ECtHR has also repeatedly held that, where a conviction is based on statements made without a lawyer’s assistance, the applicant must, as far as possible, be placed in the same position in which he would have found him/herself had the breach not occurred. This was
recognised in Article 13.2 as proposed by the Commission. We therefore recommend that the amendment to delete article 13.2, and any other attempt to delete or weaken this element (as in amendments 171, 172), is not approved.
We also oppose the insertion of ‘without prejudice to the national rule on the admissibility of evidence’, at the start of paragraph 3 Article 13 (Comp Am 17 and amendment 22 JURI) and the last sentence in Recital 27 (Comp Am 25): ‘This should not prevent member states from maintaining a system whereby all existing evidence can be adduced before a court or a judge, without there being any separate or prior assessment as to admissibility of such evidence’. We believe that evidence obtained, for instance, by torture should never be even admitted before a court. This would also create confusion as international legal instruments refer to ‘admissibility’ and not ‘use’ whenever referring to the prohibition.
-. Proposition de la Commission européenne (FR) http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2009_2014/documents/com/com_com(2011)0326_/com_com(2011)0326_fr.pdf
-. Avis de la commission des affaires juridiques (FR) http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2009_2014/documents/juri/ad/887/887945/887945fr.pdf
-. Projet de Rapport (FR) http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2009_2014/documents/libe/pr/891/891383/891383fr.pdf