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Publication date:31 March 2021

Presumption of innocence and related rights – Professional perspectives

This report looks at the practical implementation of the presumption of innocence in criminal proceedings, and related rights, in 9 EU Member States (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Poland and Portugal). Article 48 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights guarantees the presumption of innocence – but, as FRA’s research underscores, it can be undermined in many ways.


The project will provide evidence-based advice to the EU institutions and Member States on the rights to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, to be present at trial and not to self-incriminate. FRA will collect information through a combination of desk research, case studies and interviews with defence lawyers, police, judges and prosecutors.


The European Commission has asked FRA to provide information about how Member States apply the presumption of innocence (and associated rights) in practice, and to shed light on the fundamental rights implications for the persons concerned (e.g. defendants). Directive (EU) 2016/343 lays down the minimum standards to ensure that the right to be presumed innocent is respected throughout the EU. This is part of the Commission’s Roadmap on procedural rights, which aims to strengthen Member States’ trust in each other’s justice systems. FRA’s findings will contribute to the Commission’s 2021 report on the implementation of the Directive.


The research covers nine EU Member States: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Poland and Portugal. Data will be collected through the Agency’s multi-disciplinary research network, FRANET. It comprises three components:

  1. Small-scale desk research
  2. Case studies on how the media present criminal cases with respect to the presumption of innocence, and
  3. Social fieldwork research.

The Agency will carry out 12 face-to-face interviews per country with defence lawyers, prosecutors or judges and police officers. The findings will complement and build on FRA’s comprehensive evidence base relating to the right of defence (Article 48 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights) and the rights of persons deprived of their liberty (Article 6 of the Charter).


This project’s research work will result in:

  • a comparative analytical report, and
  • nine country-level reports.