Presumption of Innocence, Fair Trial and Defence Rights in the European Union: An Analysis of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights

European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), "Presumption of innocence and related rights - Professional perspectives", March 31, 2021

A recent report published by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) examines how the presumption of innocence and the related rights are applied in practice within the European Union. The survey is based on 123 interviews involving legal practitioners, police officers and journalists and involves nine EU Member States (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Poland and Portugal).

The report consists of six thematic chapters, each dedicated to a specific issue relating to the presumption of innocence and the defendant's rights guaranteed by art. 48 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and by Directive (EU) 2016/343.

The analysis specifically focuses on the following key points:

  • Member States should ensure that the presumption of innocence applies to all the defendants regardless of their personal characteristics and individual history, by promoting measures to prevent the influence of biases and prejudices related to their ethnic or social background, gender or other factors;
  • Member States should establish precise rules to ensure that the media representation of the defendant is consistent with the presumption of innocence;
  • the use of restraint or security measure in public should be limited as much as possible, and in any case the defendant should be protected from the public and media gaze;
  • the defense must be ensured adequate powers to investigate and search for evidence, although the burden of proof must lie with the prosecuting and investigating authorities;
  • prosecuting authorities must ensure that any questioning of suspects or accused persons is carried out by the police only after they have been properly informed of their right to remain silent and to not incriminate themselves, and any indirect methods to pressure defendants to provide incriminating evidence must never be used;
  • the prosecuting and judicial authorities should make reasonable efforts to locate defendants whose whereabouts are unknown and to ensure their effective knowledge of the ongoing criminal proceedings, as well as their right to participate in the trial.


To read the report, click here.