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How to make sure human rights will be protected after Brexit?

admin - December 28, 2018 - Brexit

 

It is hard to predict from one moment to the next what is going to happen with Brexit, with little being certain. One thing that the UK and the EU do seem to have political will to ensure is the continuance of security cooperation after March 2019. But do they have enough of political will to make sure that human rights will also be protected? So far, the question has gone unanswered.

It is reasonable to assume that both sides will work towards a security agreement that operates on a high level of mutual trust between judiciaries, as the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) currently does. However, for the sake of any future security arrangement and its fair long-term functioning, it is crucial that it is underpinned by human rights protections. Given the significant impact of cooperation measures on human rights, the history of the operation of the EAW (as detailed in our report from last year, Beyond Surrender), and the legal framework surrounding security cooperation within the EU, it is worrying that human rights protections have not been given more prominence in the negotiations.

There are three areas where commitment is needed in order to preserve the protections for people accused of crime: minimum standards, domestic human rights protections against extradition, and cooperation measures.

Security cooperation that is based on mutual trust cannot work without a shared set of common minimum human rights standards. These include the European Convention on Human Rights, and increasingly, the rights contained in EU law on the procedural rights of suspected or accused persons in criminal proceedings. In order to continue security cooperation, the UK must commit firmly to the ECHR, but would that be enough? If the UK fails to keep up with the EU, and to adopt standards equivalent to those protected by EU law, then human rights standards could lower in the UK, which would affect its ability to participate in any security agreement with the EU.

Fair Trials has long campaigned for changes to how the European Arrest Warrant operates, to ensure that rights are better protected. In response to our campaign, and numerous cases of injustice, in 2014, the UK introduced domestic reforms to give British courts the power to refuse extradition where the interests of justice or the rights of the accused would be adversely impacted. In whatever way the new security agreement is implemented in UK legislation, these domestic protections should be retained.

Since the introduction of the EU’s flagship measure, the European Arrest Warrant has been joined by other security cooperation measures, which in theory mean that states shouldn’t need to resort to more severe measures like extradition. If the UK and EU Member States have access only to the EAW, this will inevitably impact the rights of people accused of crime and would diverge from the overall trend across the EU towards more proportionate cooperation that respects human rights. A comprehensive security treaty with a range of measures seems to be the best way to go for both the UK and the EU – and the people affected by future cooperation. Whether it will happen is anyone’s guess. 

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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