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NEWS

Puigdemont’s case exposes abuse of European Arrest Warrants

admin - April 16, 2018 - European Arrest Warrant

Fair Trials’ Regional Director for Europe, Ralph Bunche, was recently interviewed by online media outlet Catalan News for an insight into the dynamics of the European Arrest Warrant, the EU’s fast-track system for surrendering people from one EU country to another.

The European Arrest Warrant has received widespread media attention over the past months because of the case of Carles Puigdemont, former Prime Minister of Catalonia, who has been fighting against two such warrants issued by Spain.

Notwithstanding the sudden surge in media coverage, the European Arrest Warrant has actually been in place since 2004. At Fair Trials we have long been documenting cases of abuse related to this mechanism, including where people have been left without due legal assistance, had to spend months in pre-trial detention abroad, and where they have been separated from their close family.

Increased safeguards are needed to prevent further abuse. Since our 2012 report on the European Arrest Warrant, we have been advocating for a number of protections, including:

  • Protection against people being extradited when there is a real risk they will be subjected to serious human rights abuses;
  • Exhausting alternatives measures before turning to extradition;
  • Protection against disproportionate use of extradition for minor crimes;
  • A fair and independent judicial process before any person is extradited, with a right to legal advice in both countries; and
  • A more transparent process for deciding where cross-border cases are prosecuted.

These safeguards must be included in the text of the Framework Decision which regulates the European Arrest Warrant.

At Fair Trials, we also want to see domestic courts increasingly refer questions related to the implementation of this mechanism to the EU Court of Justice, in order to reach a shared understanding of the protections that are to be attached to the European Arrest Warrant.

In 2016, one such referral (joined cases Aranyosi and Caldararu) prompted the EU Court of Justice to oblige courts to suspend execution of a European Arrest Warrant until the requesting Member State has provided sufficient information to make clear whether the requested person’s fundamental rights are at real risk of infringement.

Another crucial referral is currently being submitted by an Irish court to clarify whether extradition to Poland is still possible, given the recent legal changes to the domestic judiciary’s architecture, which would put its independence at risk and threaten the right to a fair trial.

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71.

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