The principle of the ne bis in idem in criminal matters (i.e. the right not to be prosecuted or punished twice for the same criminal conduct) is a key safeguard against arbitrary use of the ius puniendi. Furthermore, it offers an interesting perspective from which we can observe the development of an area of freedom, security and justice in Europe, and how the relationships between the two main European human rights instruments – the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU (‘CFREU’) and the European Convention of Human Rights (‘ECHR’) and the related case law emanating from the courts of Luxembourg and Strasbourg – are evolving. Indeed, the way in which the CJEU will answer in the near future the questions that are submitted to it in several pending cases (see cases C-524/15, Menci; C-537/16, Garlsson et al.; C-596/16 and C-597/16, Di Puma) might have a ‘constitutional’ impact that goes well beyond the ne bis in idem principle. This post will take a closer look at some of these pending questions. Continue reading →
As observed earlier on this blog, criminal ne bis inidem is a key issue for the development of an Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (AFSJ), particularly in order to ensure the freedom of movement of EU citizens by protecting them from multiple prosecutions in different Member States.
In the last years the CJEU has developed an autonomous transnational concept of ne bis in idem (i.e. independent from the national understanding of this principle) based upon the provisions contained in Articles 54 et seq. of the Convention Implementing the Schengen Agreement (CISA), and the principle of mutual trust between Member States. The ‘transnational’ EU ne bis in idem is also a fundamental right enshrined in Article 50 Charter of the Fundamental Rights of the European Union (Charter or CFREU), thus part of the primary law of the Union.
This comment focuses on the opinion delivered last December by the Advocate General Yves Bot in Kussowski (C-486/14, 15 December 2015, not yet available in English). After the Spasic case (C-129/14 PPU, 27 May 2014, commented by Marletta on this blog), this new case offers the CJEU another opportunity to clarify the relation between Article 50 CFREU and the CISA provisions, and thus the real added value of the Charter. Furthermore, the Court is called upon to indicate to which extent mutual trust should shape the relations between national criminal justice authorities. Continue reading →
As is becoming a tradition with our blog (albeit a bit late this year), we present to you our top 10 most read posts of the last year. We have had another good year of blogging behind us: more readers contributing to the content of the blog with 33 posters coming from approximately 14 different countries this year. Equally important is that readership is steadily increasing according to Google Analytics (plus: we now have almost 1600 email subscribers and 2400 followers on twitter). Most of you are from the UK, followed by the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, the United States, Italy, Sweden, France, Ireland and Poland, respectively.
Keeping in mind that there is a certain bias in favour of older posts which have had more time to become popular, this is the 2015 list of most read posts of the year: Continue reading →
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 →
Ne bis in idem is one of the key principles of EU criminal law. On the one hand, it is an important individual safeguard for suspects and convicted persons in the EU, as it protects against double prosecution and double punishment. On the other hand, it is the only mechanism – although imperfect and insufficient – to regulate conflicts of jurisdiction in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (AFSJ). A final judgment in one Member State indeed prevents another Member State from (further) prosecuting the same person (again) for the same facts.
Last June the Court of Justice (CJEU) issued an important judgment regarding the scope of the transnational protection against double jeopardy. The decision of the CJEU further expands the concept of ‘final decision’ triggering the ne bis in idem, confirming the validity of the previously consolidated trend which, on the one hand, recognises a strong importance to the mutual trust between Member States, and on the other hand acknowledges the inherent link between ne bis in idem and the freedom of movement in the EU. Continue reading →
Today’s decision by the Grand Chamber in C-617/10 Åkerberg Fransson is a landmark decision on the scope of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, EU constitutional law, and the relationship between national and EU law in general. As I explained in an earlier post, it was not clear, until today, whether the Charter had the same scope of fundamental rights protection as under the ‘old’ regime of fundamental rights protection ensured by the CJEU. The CJEU dealt with the issue head on stating that article 51 (1) of the Charter ‘confirms the Court’s case-law relating to the extent to which actions of the Member States must comply with the requirements flowing from the fundamental rights guaranteed in the legal order of the European Union’ (para. 18).
The scope of EU fundamental rights protection and the influence of the Charter of Fundamental Rights on this scope is a much discussed topic among EU constitutional lawyers. As is well-known, the recognition of fundamental rights as part of the general principles of EU law by the Court is not new. Already in the cases of Stauder and Internationale Handelsgesellschaft, handed down in 1969 and 1974 respectively, the Court recognized fundamental rights as part of the general principles of EU law. It did so to anticipate challenges to the primacy of EU law by national constitutional courts and the Court therefore took great care in stressing the autonomous nature of EU fundamental rights protection. This means that the Court has maintained authority in determining the content of EU fundamental rights protection and thus remained the ultimate interpreter of EU law. However, before the coming into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, there was no EU catalogue of rights formally binding on the EU as such. Rather, the Court drew inspiration from international treaties and national constitutions, whilst at the same time maintaining the autonomy of the EU rights standard. With the coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty the Charter of Fundamental Rights has also become formally binding on the EU. This means there now is a binding catalogue of rights at the EU level.
A contentious issue is whether the Charter of Fundamental Rights alters the scope of the EU fundamental rights standard laid down in previous case-law of the Court. In its case law, the Court has held that fundamental rights recognized as general principles of EU law apply not only to the acts of the EU institutions but also to the acts of Member States in certain circumstances. Generally, Member States have to act in accordance with fundamental rights recognized at the EU level ‘whenever they act within the scope of EU law’. In the case-law of the Court this includes at least two situations. First, Member States are bound by the EU rights standard where the implement and enforce EU law. Second, the Member States are also bound by the EU rights standard where they derogate from EU law provisions (see cases such as Schmidberger, and ERT). However, when precisely a Member State acts within the ‘scope of EU law’ is not entirely clear. The dividing line between situations within the scope and those outside the scope of EU law often appears arbitrary, as was pointed by AG Sharpston in the case of Zambrano.