The Justice and Home Affairs Council, which met in Luxembourg on Thursday and Friday, discussed the creation of minimum standards for material detention, the EU’s Strategy on the Rights of the Child, the issue of strategic lawsuits against public participation and the protection of journalists, as well as the latest development regarding the functioning of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Justice Minister Stefi Drakou participated representing Cyprus in the portions of the discussion focusing on justice issues.
During the first day of the JHA Council, the Ministers held a thorough debate on pre-trial detention. Ministers focused on which minimum standards for material detention conditions and procedural rights in pre-trial detention should be prioritised, as well as the use of alternative measures to detention.
In her contribution to the discussion, the Justice Minister noted that this issue is a priority for the Republic of Cyprus, and that these concerns are being safeguarded through the criminal justice system.
Drakou referred to the differences found across the EU on this issue, and underlined that it would be beneficial for the EU to arrive at uniform standards on issues concerning the personal safety of the prisoners as well as their access to medical care. Drakou also said Cyprus supports the application, where and when possible, of alternatives to detention such as the use of a monitoring bracelet.
The Minister also said that in the case of Cyprus, the time spent in pre-trial detention is counted towards the total sentence imposed, which could contribute, in combination with other measures, to reducing prison overpopulation. Drakou also thanked Justice Minister Didier Reynders for the Commission’s intention to support member states with funding in this area.
The Ministers also discussed draft conclusions on the EU’s Strategy on the Rights of the Child, which was presented by the Commission on March 24th 2021. However during the discussion it became clear that there was no unanimity which would be required to adopt these conclusions. Several member states expressed their disappointment.
Drakou said that Cyprus supports the draft conclusions and underlined that the interests of children should be in the centre of efforts made by the EU and guide actions taken by member states.
She also said she shares the disappointment of the majority of the member states, and underlined that the promotion and strengthening of the rights of children should happen without any discrimination, and that this should be a joint European goal.
During a working lunch, the Ministers had their first exchange of views on the issue of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP), that is the use of abusive litigation against journalists that aim to discourage the press from reporting on issues that are to the public interest such as organised crime. The Ministers agreed to return to the issue at a future stage.
On Friday, the Ministers held a debate on the digital dimension of investigating child sexual abuse. They focused in particular on how access to data for competent authorities can be guaranteed in order to effectively counter these crimes. They also discussed the role of proactive measures by social media platforms, hosting services and electronic communications providers in addressing this phenomenon.
The Minister stressed the need that new proposals should hold communications providers responsible for detecting such material.
In the margins of the meeting, the Justice Minister also met with Justice Commissioners Reynders and the Greek Minister for Justice, Constantinos Tsiaras.