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Ne Bis Interpretatio In Idem? The Two Faces of the Ne Bis In Idem Principle in the Case Law of the European Court of Justice

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 March 2019

Abstract

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The meaning of idem in the ne bis in idem principle is controversial in the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union. In interpreting the provision of Article 54 of the Convention Implementing the Schengen Agreement, the court has emphasized the necessary requirement in the identity of the material acts while in antitrust law three requirements have been deemed necessary: (1) Identity of the facts, (2) unity of offender, and (3) unity of the legal interest protected. Despite the opinions of some Advocates General, the court has confirmed different interpretations of the same principle, depending on differences of the legal scope in question. A few years ago, however, the European Court of Human Rights proclaimed the criterion based on the identity of the material acts as the most suitable. This might push the Court of Justice of the European Union to correct its position in the antitrust field. Should this happen, this adjustment might serve as grounds to recognize the existence of a regional custom concerning the ne bis in idem principle.

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References

1 See generally Transnational Organised Crime (Adam Edwards & Peter Gill eds., 2003); Annamaria Peccioli, Unione Europea e Criminalità Transnazionale: Nuovi Sviluppi (2005); Handbook of Transnational Crime and Justice (Philip Reichel ed., 2005).Google Scholar

2 Novella Galantini, Il Principio del “Ne Bis in Idem” Internazionale Nel Processo Penale 6 (1984).Google Scholar

3 Bas van Bockel, The Ne Bis In Idem Principle in EU Law: A Conceptual and Jurisprudential Analysis 225 (2010) noted that in a legal system characterized by the presence of a number of States in which free movement of individuals is granted, the territorial scope of ne bis in idem must necessarily coincide with the territorial scope of the legal system.Google Scholar

4 On the topic, one may want to check the following: Robin Lööf, 54 CISA and the Principles of Ne Bis in Idem, 15 Euro. J. Crime, Crim. L. & Crim. Justice 309 (2007); Chiara Amalfitano, Il Principio del Ne Bis in Idem tra CAAS e Carta Dei Diritti Fondamentali Dell'Unione Europea, 52 Cassazione Penale 3889 (2012); Juliette Lelieur, “Transnationalising” Ne Bis in Idem: How the Rule of Ne Bis in Idem Reveals the Principle of Personal Legal Certainty, 9 Utrecht L. Rev. (2013) available at http://www.utrechtlawreview.org.Google Scholar

5 For that purpose, this author takes into account both horizontal transnational enforcement (when the same offense is considered in two or more EU Member States, or an EU Member State and another third country) and vertical application of the principle (where the same offense is considered by EU antitrust authorities and national antitrust authorities).Google Scholar

6 One should remember that, pursuant to Article 50 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, no one shall be liable to be tried or punished again in criminal proceedings for an offense for which he or she has already been finally acquitted or convicted within the EU.Google Scholar

7 See also Joined Cases 18 and 35–65, Gutmann, 1967 E.C.R. 75 for some hints.Google Scholar

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10 This issue is also underlined in Case C-469/03, Miraglia, 2005 E.C.R. I-2009 where the Court ruled out the application of ne bis in idem to a decision declaring a case to be closed on the sole ground that criminal proceedings have been started in another Member State against the same defendant and for the same fact. For a review, see Amalfitano, Chiara, Bis in idem per il “ne bis in idem”: Nuovo Quesito alla Corte di Giustizia, 40 Rivista di Diritto Internazionale Privato e Processuale 85 (2004).Google Scholar

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14 Case C-150/05, van Straaten, 2006 E.C.R. I-9327. In van Straaten, the court acknowledged that the principle applies to a decision by which the accused is acquitted finally for lack of evidence.Google Scholar

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16 Case C-367/05, Kraaijenbrink, 2007 E.C.R. I-6619. In Kraaijenbrink, the court held that it is up to national courts to assess whether the degree of identity and connection among all the facts is such that it is possible to find that they are the same act within the meaning of Article 54 CISA.Google Scholar

17 Case C-297/07, Bourquain, 2008 E.C.R. I-9425. In Bourquain, the CJEU acknowledged that the ne bis in idem principle also applies to cases where a sentence cannot be directly enforced on account of specific features of procedure, such as in an in absentia trial. For a review, see Brammer, Silke, Case C-297/07, Reference for a preliminary ruling from the Landgericht Regensburg in the criminal proceedings against Klaus Bourquain, Judgment of the Court (Second Chamber) of 11 December 2008, 46 Common Mkt. L. Rev. 1685 (2009).Google Scholar

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19 See Article 3(2) of the Council Framework Decision 2002/584/JHA of 13 June 2002 on the European arrest warrant and the surrender procedures between Member States—Statements made by certain Member States on the adoption of the Framework Decision, 2002 O.J. L 190/1.Google Scholar

20 Case C-261/09, Mantello, 2010 E.C.R. I-11477. For a review, see Ouwerkerk, Jannemieke, Case C-261/09, Criminal proceedings against Gaetano Mantello, Judgment of the Court of Justice (Grand Chamber) of 16 November 2010, 48 Common Mkt. L. Rev. 1687 (2011).Google Scholar

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22 Opinion of Advocate General Roemer, Case 14/68, Walt Wilhelm and Others v. Bundeskartellamt, 1969 E.C.R. I-17, para. 3.Google Scholar

23 Id. at para. 2.Google Scholar

25 Case 14/68, Walt Wilhelm and Others v. Bundeskartellamt, 1969 E.C.R. 2, para. 11.Google Scholar

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33 Opinion of Advocate General Sharpston, Case C–467/04, Gasparini and Others, 2006 E.C.R. I-9203, para. 92.Google Scholar

34 Id. at para. 103.Google Scholar

35 Id. at para. 157.Google Scholar

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37 Id. at paras. 130–31.Google Scholar

38 Case C-17/10, Toshiba Corporation and others (Feb. 14, 2012). AG Kokott confirmed her ideas in Opinion of Advocate General Kokott at para. 80, Case C-489/10, Bonda (June 5, 2012), http://curia.europa.eu/juris/recherche.jsf?language=en but the CJEU did not give any useful answer on the topic. See Andreangeli, Arianna, Ne bis in idem and administrative sanctions, 50 Common Mkt. L. Rev. 1827 (2013).Google Scholar

39 See also Opinion of Advocate General Cruz Villalón, Case C-617/10, Åkerberg Fransson (June 12, 2012), http://curia.europa.eu/juris/celex.jsf?celex=62010CC0617&lang1=en&type=TXT&ancre= which represents a useful guide to the case law of the CJEU and the ECtHR.Google Scholar

40 Pursuant to which,Google Scholar

41 Gradinger v. Austria, App. No. 15963/90, paras. 54–55 (Oct. 23, 1995).Google Scholar

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46 Zolotukhin v. Russia, App. No. 14939/03, para. 78 (Feb. 10, 2009).Google Scholar

47 Id. at para. 80.Google Scholar

48 Id. at para. 81.Google Scholar

49 Id. at para. 84.Google Scholar

50 The interpretation given in Zolotukhin was later applied in Grande Stevens and Others v. Italy, App. No. 18640/10, 18647/10, 18663/10, 18668/10 and 18698/10 (Mar. 4, 2014).Google Scholar

51 See generally Mitsilegas, Valsamis, EU Criminal Law (2009); Ester Herlin-Karnell, The Constitutional Dimension of European Criminal Law (2012); André Klip, European Criminal Law: An Integrative Approach (2012).Google Scholar

52 See Bas van Bockel, Case C-436/04, Criminal Proceedings against Léopold Henri Van Esbroeck, Case C-150/05, Jean Leon Van Straaten v. Netherlands and Italy, Case C-467/04, Criminal proceedings against G. Francesco Gasparini, José Ma L.A. Gasparini, G. Costa Bozzo, Juan de Lucchi Calcagno, Francesco Mario Gasparini, José A. Hormiga Marrero, Sindicatura Quiebra, 45 Common Mkt. L. Rev. 223 (2008).Google Scholar

53 See, e.g., Limburgse Vinyl Maatschappij and Others v. Commission case. For a review, see Wesseling, Rein, Joined Cases C-238/99 P, C-244/99 P, C-245/99 P, C-247/99 P, C-250/99 P to C-252/99 P and C-254/99 P, Limburgse Vinyl Maatschappij NV (LVM) and Others v. Commission, 41 Common Mkt. L. Rev. 1141 (2004).Google Scholar

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55 See generally Case C-390/12, Pfleger and Others (Apr. 30, 2014), http://curia.europa.eu/juris/liste.jsf?num=C-390/12; Case C-398/12, M., (June 5, 2014), http://curia.europa.eu/juris/liste.jsf?num=C-398/12&language=EN; and Case C-129/14 PPU, Spasic (May 27, 2014), http://curia.europa.eu/juris/documents.jsf?num=C-129/14. For a review, see John A. E. Vervaele, Schengen and Charter-related ne bis in idem protection in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice: M and Zoran Spasic, 52 Common Mkt. L. Rev. 1339 (2015). On the topic of harmonization, see Wasmeier, Martin, Ne bis in idem and the Enforcement Condition: Balancing Freedom, Security and Justice?, 5 New J. Euro. Crim. L. 534 (2014).Google Scholar

56 In light of the above, this author must challenge the wording of Article 50 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which states that no one shall be liable to be tried or punished again in criminal proceedings “for an offence” (emphasis added) for which he or she has already been finally acquitted or convicted within the Union in accordance with the law. The word “offence” poses a problem since it seems to recall the legal characterization of the act rather than the act as an historical event. The Explanations relating to the Charter do not let overcome the issue since they make reference to both the antitrust case law and Gözütok and Brügge as if the CJEU ruled the same way: Actually, the concept of offense is more linked to the first interpretation rather than the second one. Therefore, it would be more correct to speak of an act rather than an offense, as this may be a harbinger of problems. A rewording would be welcome but it seems to presuppose a revirement in the CJEU antitrust case law.Google Scholar

57 Opinion of Advocate General Tizzano at paras. 95–96, Case C-397/03 P, Archer Daniels Midland and Archer Daniels Midland Ingredients (June 7, 2005), http://curia.europa.eu/juris/recherche.jsf?language=en.Google Scholar

58 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Dec. 16, 1966, S. Exec. Rep. 102–23, 999 U.N.T.S. 171.Google Scholar

59 American Convention on Human Rights, Nov. 21, 1969, 1144 U.N.T.S. 143.Google Scholar

60 See Loayza-Tamayo v. Peru, Merits Judgment, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 33, para. 66 (Sept. 17, 1997).Google Scholar

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68 Convention between the Member States of the European Communities on double jeopardy, adopted May 25, 1987. The Convention never came into force, even if it applied to the relations between Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, and Portugal.Google Scholar

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70 Council Framework Decision 2009/948/JHA of 30 November 2009 on prevention and settlement of conflicts of exercise of jurisdiction in criminal proceedings, 2009 O.J. L 328/42. Because the third paragraph of the Whereas section recalls the ne bis in idem principle as set out in Article 54 CISA, one may think that the case law concerning that article is recalled as well.Google Scholar

71 Green Paper on conflicts of jurisdiction and the principle of ne bis in idem in criminal proceedings, COM(2005) 696 (not published in the O.J.).Google Scholar

72 See also the Initiative of the Hellenic Republic with a view to adopting a Council Framework Decision concerning the application of the “ne bis in idem” principle, 2003 O.J. C 100/24. For a review, see Amalfitano, Chiara, La risoluzione dei conflitti di giurisdizione in materia penale nell'Unione europea, 15 Diritto Penale e Processo 1293 (2009).Google Scholar

73 Novella Galantini, Una nuova dimensione per il ne bis in idem internazionale, 44 Cassazione Penale 3474 (2004) implies from that statement that the ne bis in idem should become a principle of custom international law in a short time. See also Faustin Hélie, Traité de l'instruction criminelle 656 (1866); Henri Donnedieu de Vabres, Le Principes Modernes du Droit Pénal International 311 (1928); Gerard Conway, Ne bis in idem in International Law, 3 Int'l Crim. L. Rev. 217 (2003).Google Scholar

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75 See Corte costituzionale italiana [Italian Constitutional Court], Apr. 14, 1997, http://www.giurcost.org/decisioni/1997/0058s-97.htm.Google Scholar

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81 For an introduction to this topic, see L. Neville Brown & Tom Kennedy, The Court of Justice of the European Communities (2000); The European Court of Justice (Gráinne de Búrca & Joseph H. H. Weiler eds., 2001); Anthony Arnull, The European Union and its Court of Justice (2006); Takis Tridimas, The European Court of Justice and the EU Constitutional Order (2009).Google Scholar

82 For an introduction to the topic, see Koen Lenaerts et al., Procedural Law of the European Union (2006), Koen Lenaerts et al., EU Procedural Law (2014).Google Scholar

83 Case C-327/91, France v. Commission, 1994 E.C.R. I-3641, para. 36, Avis 1/94, Competence of the Community to conclude international agreements concerning services and the protection of intellectual property, 1994 E.C.R. I-5389, paras. 52, 61. That is what the CJEU ruled with regard to the European Community Treaty, which was characterized by the so-called Community method. In light of the Treaty of Lisbon and the communitarisation of the third pillar, that reasoning may now apply to the EU legal framework as a whole, with the only exception being the Common Foreign and Security Policy, which is instead characterized by the so-called intergovernmental method. In this case, the practice of Member States still prevails. For more on this topic, see Hoffmeister, Frank, The Contribution of EU Practice to International Law, in Developments in EU External Relations Law 56–57 (Marise Cremona ed., 2008).Google Scholar

84 See, e.g., the abovementioned Grande Stevens and Others case.Google Scholar

85 See, e.g., the abovementioned Spasic case.Google Scholar

86 See generally Andreangeli, Arianna, EU Competition Enforcement and Human Rights (2008); Marco Bronckers & Anne Vallery, No Longer Presumed Guilty: The Impact of Fundamental Rights on Certain Dogmas of EU Competition Law, 34 World Competition 535 (2011); Mel Marquis, Roberto Cisotta, Litigation and Arbitration in EU Competition Law 144 (2015).Google Scholar

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