The European Investigation Order (Directive 2014/41 /EU) has now entered into force, which now simplifies the work of the judicial authorities when they request evidence in another EU country.
For example, if the French judicial authorities identify terrorists hiding in Belgium, they can ask their Belgian counterparts to question witnesses or conduct searches on their own behalf. This new tool will simplify and speed up cross-border criminal investigations.
The European Investigation Order is based on mutual recognition, which means that each EU country is obliged to recognise and execute the request of the other country, as it would do with a decision coming from its own authorities.
The European Investigation Order will offer the following advantages:
- It creates a single, comprehensive legal instrument with a wide scope.
- It will replace the existing fragmented legal framework for gathering evidence.
- It will cover, for the participating Member States, the whole process of gathering evidence, from committing evidence to transferring existing evidence.
- Set strict deadlines for gathering the evidence requested.
- Member States have up to 30 days to decide whether to accept a request. If they accept it, they have 90 days to complete the requested investigative measure. Any delay will be communicated to the EU country that issued the European Investigation Order.
- Reduces the reasons for rejecting these requests. The receiving authority can only refuse to execute the order in specific cases, e.g. if the request is contrary to the fundamental principles of the law of the country or damages the interests of national security.
- Reduces bureaucracy by introducing a standardised standard form translated into the official language of the executing State, whereby authorities can request assistance in seeking evidence.
- Protects the fundamental rights of defence. Issuing authorities should assess the necessity and proportionality of the requested investigative measure. The European Investigation Order must be issued or ratified by a judicial authority and may be requested by a suspected or accused person or by a lawyer acting on his behalf in accordance with the rights of the defence and the national criminal proceedings. Member States must ensure remedies equivalent to those available in a similar domestic case and ensure that the persons covered by the mandate are duly informed about these possibilities.
In particular, the European Investigation Order provides the following possibilities:
- temporary transfer of prisoners for the purpose of collecting evidence;
- Investigating the bank accounts and financial transactions of suspects or accused persons;
- secure telecommunication surveys and monitoring;
- evidence protection measures.
The Directive is based on the principle of mutual recognition of judicial decisions in the area of gathering evidence for use in criminal proceedings.
This directive applies to all EU countries except Denmark and Ireland, which are not involved. The United Kingdom has decided to take part in the proposed directive. The Directive replaces existing EU systems of mutual legal assistance for obtaining evidence, in particular the 2000 Mutual Assistance Convention and Framework Decision 2003/577 / JHA on the freezing of evidence.