Access to Justice as a Human Right

At a global level, access to justice has been clearly recognized as a human right.[1] This right generally includes ‘the right to a fair trial, the right to have one’s case decided within a reasonable time, and the right to a remedy, such as compensation’.[2] At an international level, the right to access to justice is provided in Articles 2 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and

Political Rights and in the 2011 UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.[3]

At the European level, access to justice has been acknowledged as a fundamental right, through the procedural right to an individual hearing and to a remedy in the European Convention on Human Rights (Articles 6 and 13 ECHR). Furthermore, Article 47 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, entitled ‘Right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial’, states that everyone has ‘the right to an effective remedy before a tribunal’ and is ‘entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal previously established by law’. Moreover, ‘Everyone shall have the possibility of being advised, defended and represented’. This Article also expressly stipulates that legal aid should be provided to those who lack sufficient resources, if this is required to ensure effective access to justice. In addition, the fundamental right to an effective remedy has been affirmed by the recent ECJ case law including in the particular field of consumer protection.[4]

Despite this formal recognition, consumers still face major barriers to enforcing their rights in practice. This has created a civil justice gap that undermines the credibility of the EU legal system and impedes efficient functioning of the internal market.[5]

  • [1] E. Storskrubb & J. Ziller, ‘Access to Justice in European Comparative Law’, in F. Francioni(ed.), Access to Justice as a Human Right (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2007), p. 177; A. Ward, ‘Access toJustice’, in S. Peers & A. Ward (eds), The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, Politics, Law and Policy,(Essays in European Law) (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2004), p. 247.
  • [2] See the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights’ Report, Access to Justice in Europe: An Overview ofChallenges and Opportunities (n 2), p. 14.
  • [3] See the Report of J. Ruggie, Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementingthe United Nations Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework, 2001 (see also: ).
  • [4] See the European Commission, 2010 Report on the Application of the EU Charter of FundamentalRights, 2011, p. 77 and e.g. the following case law: Joined Cases C-317/08 to C-320/08, Alassiniandothers v Telecom Italia [2010] ECR I-2213.
  • [5] European Commission, Eurobarometer 2006, Special Report 252, ‘Consumer Protection inthe Internal Market’; 44% of consumers are less confident when purchasing in another EU state.
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