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Saarbrücken Regional Court rejects extradition to Lithuania due to inter-prisoner violence

editor - February 9, 2017 - European Arrest Warrant

This guest post was written by Dr. Anna Oehmichen, practising lawyer at Knierim & Krug Rechtsanwälte GbR and a member of our LEAP network from Germany. As with all of our guest posts, the views represented are of the author and may not reflect the views of Fair Trials.

prison-1652896_960_720In a recent decision (5th October 2016, case number: Ausl 9/2016 (47/16)), the Higher Regional Court of Saarbrücken (Germany), rejected the extradition of a Lithuanian citizen to Lithuania because of human rights concerns, including poor prison conditions and risk of violence from other prisoners.

The requested person had indeed objected his extradition on these two arguments, specifically motivating the risk for his life because he owed 10.000€ to an inmate held in a Lithuanian detention facility.

In its decision, the Court made reference to the 2014 report of the Committee on the Prevention of Torture (CPT) concerning Lithuania, which outlined various shortfalls in Lithuanian prisons. The CPT specifically reported that many inmates were held in cells smaller than 4 square meters, which even dropped to less than 2 in some cases.

The Court therefore requested the Lithuanian authorities to ensure that:

  1. the wanted person would be held in a detention facility that met CPT and European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) minimum standards, and that
  2. representatives of the German consulate and embassy would be allowed to visit and check that these standards were met.

The Lithuanian authorities replied that these guarantees were included in the national Constitution and Code of Criminal Procedure. They moreover held that the standard living space of a detainee in Lithuania amounted to 3.6 square meters which, in their view, was compatible with European standards.

After being notified that this information did not suffice to meet the Court's concerns, the Lithuanian authorities further indicated that important changes had taken place in the Lithuanian penitentiary system, that the number of detainees had been considerably reduced since 2012, when the CPT had visited, and that the CPT recommendations had been implemented through legal reforms in the meantime.

Despite the pledges, the Saarbrücken Court ruled against the extradition, since there were clear and specific indications that the requested person was going to be detained in a facility that did not meet European standards. The CPT had specifically reported in some detention facilities serious cases of ill-treatment by staff and inter-prisoner violence which prison staff was unable to prevent, especially at night and on weekends. These findings, in particular where relating to inter-prisoner violence, were very much in line with the arguments raised by the subject.

In addition, the general information provided by the Lithuanian authorities in the absence of any diplomatic assurances, was not deemed to be sufficient. What is more, the promise of 3.6 square meters per inmate, as detailed by the issuing state, only confirmed the Court's concerns regarding degrading and inhuman treatment. As the Saarbrücken jurisdiction ruled, a personal space of less than 4 square meters does not comply with the minimum standards set out in the European Court of Human Rights case law on Art. 3 ECHR (prohibition of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment).

The decision must be strongly welcomed because it clarifies that:

  • less than 4 square meters of personal space does not meet European standards;
  • alleged inter-prisoner violence can constitute a valid ground for rejecting an extradition request, whenever this argument is confirmed by objective sources such as a CPT report;
  • general information about the legal guarantees or legal reforms provided by the requesting State are not sufficient to mitigate refusal grounds that relate to Art. 3, ECHR.

As with all of our guest posts, the views represented are of the author and may not reflect the views of Fair Trials. 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. For regular updates follow Fair Trials on Twitter and Facebook or sign up to our newsletter at the bottom of the page. FB iconClick to share this story on Facebook

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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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