Legal Aid in Europe: Minimum Requirements under International Law

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This briefing paper summarizes the current minimum international legal standards on the right to legal aid, from the European Convention on Human Rights and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, supported by principles and standards from the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Human Rights Committee, the UN Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems, and other European and UN bodies.

The Open Society Justice Initiative developed this summary to support European Union negotiations on a Directive on Legal Aid, which would establish and codify the practice on legal aid for all EU member states. The level of protection on legal aid provided should never fall below these minimum standards: they are a floor, not a ceiling.

In addition to English, the first edition of this document, published in December 2014, may be downloaded in the eight languages listed above: Dutch, German, French, Hungarian, Italian, Russian, Spanish, and Polish.