As a citizen of our country, we know our rights and freedoms, but as a citizen of the EU are we aware of our rights?

Europa United contributor, Divine Gonsalves, introduces you to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which is a single document containing all the rights and freedoms of a citizen protected by the EU and it is legally binding. It contains six headings, but just an early warning, it is elaborate. This is part three of a three part series that will run consecutively over the next few days.

JUSTICE 

ARTICLE 47- RIGHT TO AN EFFECTIVE REMEDY AND TO A FAIR TRIAL
Anyone whose rights and freedoms guaranteed by the law have been violated has the right to an effective remedy before a tribunal in compliance with the conditions laid down in this Article. We are entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal previously established by law and as well as have the possibility of being advised, defended and represented. We are entitled to legal aid if we lack sufficient resources in so far as such aid is necessary to ensure effective access to justice.

ARTICLE 48- PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE AND RIGHT OF DEFENCE
No one is assumed guilty when charged unless proven so by the law. They are considered innocent until then. Also, there is respect for the rights of the defence of anyone who has been charged and it is guaranteed.

ARTICLE 49- PRINCIPLES OF LEGALITY AND PROPORTIONALITY OF CRIMINAL OFFENCES AND PENALITIES
No one will be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence under national law or international law at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the criminal offence was committed. If subsequent to the commission of a criminal offence, the law provides for a lighter penalty, that penalty shall be applicable. It also states that this Article shall not prejudice the trial and punishment of any person for any act or omission which, at the time when it was committed, was criminal according to the general principles recognised by the community of nations. And finally, the severity of penalties must not be disproportionate to the criminal offence.

ARTICLE 50- RIGHT NOT TO BE TRIED OR PUNISHED TWICE IN CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS FOR THE SAME CRIMINAL OFFENCE
As the Article states, no one shall be liable to be tried or punished again in criminal proceedings for an offence for which they have been finally acquitted or convicted within the Union in accordance with the law.

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GENERAL PROVISIONS GOVERNING THE INTERPRETATION AND APPLICATION OF THE CHARTER

ARTICLE 51- FIELD OF APPLICATION
The provisions of this Charter are addressed to the institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the Union with due regard for the principle of subsidiarity and to the Member States only when they are implementing Union law. They shall therefore respect the rights, observe the principles and promote the application thereof in accordance with their respective powers and respecting the limits of the powers of the Union as conferred on it in the Treaties.
The Charter does not extend the field of application of Union law beyond the powers of the Union or establish any new power or task for the Union, or modify powers and tasks as defined in the Treaties.

ARTICLE 52- SCOPE AND INTERPRETATION OF RIGHTS AND PRINCIPLES

1.   Any limitation on the exercise of the rights and freedoms recognised by this Charter must be provided for by law and respect the essence of those rights and freedoms. Subject to the principle of proportionality, limitations may be made only if they are necessary and genuinely meet objectives of general interest recognised by the Union or the need to protect the rights and freedoms of others.

2.   Rights recognised by this Charter for which provision is made in the Treaties shall be exercised under the conditions and within the limits defined by those Treaties.

3.   In so far as this Charter contains rights which correspond to rights guaranteed by the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the meaning and scope of those rights shall be the same as those laid down by the said Convention. This provision shall not prevent Union law providing more extensive protection.

4.   In so far as this Charter recognises fundamental rights as they result from the constitutional traditions common to the Member States, those rights shall be interpreted in harmony with those traditions.

5.   The provisions of this Charter which contain principles may be implemented by legislative and executive acts taken by institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the Union, and by acts of Member States when they are implementing Union law, in the exercise of their respective powers. They shall be judicially cognisable only in the interpretation of such acts and in the ruling on their legality.

6.   Full account shall be taken of national laws and practices as specified in this Charter.

7.   The explanations drawn up as a way of providing guidance in the interpretation of this Charter shall be given due regard by the courts of the Union and of the Member States.

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ARTICLE 53- LEVEL OF PROTECTION
Nothing in this Charter shall be interpreted as restricting or adversely affecting human rights and fundamental freedoms as recognised, in their respective fields of application, by Union law and international law and by international agreements to which the Union or all the Member States are party, including the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and by the Member States’ constitutions.

ARTICLE 54- PROHIBITION OF ABUSE OF RIGHTS
We have rights but this does not mean we can abuse them, and bend them to suit us. Hence, this Article prevents the abuse of these rights and freedoms.

Now that you are aware of your rights and freedoms, do not be fooled by anyone and let yourselves be played. Go get educated and educate others as well!

If you are interested or wish to learn more and consult an official source of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, here is a link that directs you to the website.