Handbook on European law relating to access to justice

Access to justice is an important element of the rule of law. It enables individuals to protect themselves against infringements of their rights, to remedy civil wrongs, to hold executive power accountable and to defend themselves in criminal proceedings. This handbook summarises the key European legal principles in the area of access to justice, focusing on civil and criminal law.

This handbook provides an overview of key aspects of access to justice inEurope, 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 toenforce other rights. This handbook is broad in scope, covering criminal andcivil law. Existing FRA-ECtHR handbooks on European law relating to asylum, borders and immigration and to the rights of the child contain analyses onaccess to justice by asylum-seekers and children; therefore, these areas arenot covered in this handbook. The handbook is designed to assist legal practitioners who do not specialise inaccess to justice matters, serving as an introduction to key issues involved. It isintended for lawyers, judges, and other legal practitioners, as well as for personswho work with entities that deal with the administration of and access tojustice, 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/topicsas required; it is not necessary to read the handbook as a whole. The Furtherreading Section lists specialised material that may be of interest to those seekingadditional information on a particular issue. The relevant laws of the Council of Europe (CoE) and the European Union (EU)are presented as they apply to each topic. There is, however, substantialoverlap between the access to justice rights set out in the ECHR and in theEU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The Charter explicitly recognises that, whereCharter rights correspond to rights in the ECHR, they are to be given the samescope and meaning. Much of the ECtHR’s case law can therefore be consideredrelevant when looking at the scope and application of Charter rights. EU lawshould be presumed to be consistent with ECtHR case law unless explicitlystated otherwise. CJEU case law is referred to where relevant jurisprudence isavailable, providing alternative sources for access to justice rights and, moreimportantly, demonstrating how the two legal orders work in parallel. Many ofthe cited CJEU judgments were delivered in the course of a preliminary ruling

 http://fra.europa.eu/en/publication/2016/handbook-european-law-relating-access-justice

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