JUSTICE FOR ALL: Enhancing the Rights of Defendants and Detainees with Intellectual and/or Psychosocial Disabilities: EU Cross-Border Transfers, Detention and Alternatives

Background: Respect for fundamental rights is vital to build mutual trust between the European Union Member States and ensure the good functioning of cross border cooperation. The Stockholm Programme urged to take efforts to strengthen mutual trust and render the principle of mutual recognition in the area of detention more efficient. It also invited States to address the issue of alternatives to imprisonment.

While many relevant projects have assessed the fundamental rights issues faced by the general prison population, initiatives concerning defendants and detainees with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities have been limited. Notably, very little attention has been placed on the specific challenges faced by this group of defendants and detainees in cross border cases. Yet, persons with disabilities may be disproportionately affected if necessary and appropriate adjustments are not made to accommodate and support the individuals. To address these gaps, the project “Justice for All” will assess challenges, gaps and good practices in the implementation and practical application of the following Framework Decisions with a specific focus on defendants/detainees with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities: 2002/584/JHA on the European Arrest Warrant (EAW); 2008/909/JHA on the Transfer of Prisoners; 2008/947/JHA on Probation and Alternative Sanctions; 2009/829/JHA on the European Supervision Order. The Framework Decisions grant the Member States a certain degree of discretion in deciding whether to execute/recognise decisions concerning persons with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities. Currently, however, there is too little or no information available on how Member States interpret and apply these provisions and what the repercussions of such practices are, although they may raise fundamental rights challenges.

To this extent, the project will cover cross border cases but also look at domestic systemic issues that may in practice hinder cross-border cooperation. One issue concerns the preventive detention of persons with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities declared incapable/with diminished legal capacity in criminal proceedings and who may be deprived of their liberty for long periods of time including for life.

The overall objective is to promote judicial cooperation and mutual recognition in criminal matters within in the EU. More specifically, the project will:

  • Clarify, consolidate and increase knowledge on international, EU and national standards applicable to defendants/detainees with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities;
  • Facilitate cooperation and strengthen mutual learning and exchange between different stakeholders at the national and EU-wide level;
  • Raise awareness on the rights of defendants/detainees with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities among the project target groups, incl. decisions makers.


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  • Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Fundamental and Human Rights (Austria – coordinator)
  • Mental Health Perspectives (Lithuania)
  • Antigone (Italy)
  • Dortmund University of Applied Sciences and Arts (Germany)
  • Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (Bulgaria)


  • European Commission
  • Ministry of Public Administration (NGO Fund)