By Angelo Marletta
Ne bis in idem is a fundamental principle of EU criminal law, protecting citizens against double prosecution, even in transnational situations. Yet what is more, since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the ne bis in idem principle has become a yardstick of the systemic impact of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (CFREU) on secondary EU law.
One reason for this is that the ne bis in idem principle in Article 50 CFREU differs in some aspects from the principle as laid down in the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement (CISA), which introduced transnational ne bis in idem in the EU legal order. In particular, the CFREU neither provides for the “enforcement clause” (Article 54 CISA) nor for the exceptions foreseen by Article 55 CISA, such as the national security exception. According to the enforcement clause, the transnational ne bis in idem bars further prosecution provided that, if a penalty has been imposed: a) it has been enforced, b) it is actually in the process of being enforced or c) it can no longer be enforced under the laws of the Contracting State. Since none of these enforcement conditions are mentioned by Article 50 CFREU, the question arose, when the CFREU became a source of primary EU law, whether those limiting conditions in the CISA are compatible with the CFREU, taking into account that the CFREU is a lex superior and posterior.
In the Spasic case (C-129/14 PPU, 27 May 2014) the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice (CJEU) provided a partial and to a certain extent striking answer to this question, as this contribution will show. Continue reading