The Principle of Legality Under the European Court of Human Rights

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This paper will analyze one of the most fundamental rules of law in criminal law, the Principle of Legality under the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found in Article 7 ECHR. “Nullum crimen sine lege, nulla poena sine lege” (“no crime without law, no punishment without law”- NCSL), is often referred to as the Principle of Legality in many legal contexts. It is considered a human right and also at the heart of many national criminal legal systems. It is a crucial element of legal defense to a criminal prosecution in which no crime or punishment can exist without a legal ground. It is a guarantee of human liberty; it ensures the fairness and transparency of the judicial authority and it protects individuals from state abuse and…show more content…
In the UDHR there is Article 11 that gives a very well structured definition of the Principle of Legality: 1) “Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence; 2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national 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 penal offence was committed”. The adherence to NCSL is fairly obvious in most European Union countries that adapted and amended their legislations accordingly to the EU legislation. The observance of the principle as applicable and effective is seen in the existent case law in Europe. However, what must be stressed is that the European Union is not bound by the ECHR because fundamental/human rights remained absent from the EU founding treaties in 1951 and 1957. The EU is bound by the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. It lays down all the same rights held by the Convention and is considered to be the most modern codification of fundamental rights in the world. EU Member States are obligated to incorporate EU law and ECHR law into their national law. This subjects

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