Measure of last resort? Report on detention in EU

May 31, 2016

Within the European Union, there are over 120,000 people being held in pre-trial detention at any given time. That’s more than 1 in 5 people held in prison that haven’t yet been found guilty of any crime.

In June 2014, Fair Trials, Human Rights Monitoring Institute and 9 other organisations set out to collect a unique evidence base about how pre-trial detention is being used in practice across the EU. The project “The Practice of Pre-Trial Detention” was conducted in partnership with organisations and academics from ten EU countries and has been funded by the EU Commission. Now complete, the report brings together the findings from across the 10 jurisdictions, as well as a wider regional experts seminar, which involved over 50 participants from 24 EU Member States.

In the course of the research 242 pre-trial detention hearings were attended, 544 lawyers surveyed, 56 judges and 45 prosecutors interviewed, and 672 case files reviewed. The collected data revealed common problems in the practice of pre-trial detention throughout the EU: judges sometimes rely on unlawful grounds, human rights incompatible standards when ordering detention, while giving reasoning that is often formulaic and does not engage with the specific evidence in each case. On the other hand, measures alternative to detention are often mistrusted and underused.

The damage of long term unfounded pre-trial detention to specific persons is show in this short film by Fair Trials, in which three people detained in different EU countries share their stories.

We invite you to read the full research report or the key findings.