Protecting fundamental rights in cross-border proceedings
The European Arrest Warrant (EAW) is regarded as the flagship EU judicial cooperation measure. It was adopted in the wake of the 2001 9/11 attacks amid concerns that existing extradition laws were too cumbersome to effectively tackle serious cross-border crimes. In 2004, the EAW started to operate in the EU as a fast-track system for the arrest and extradition (or “surrender”) of a person to stand trial or serve a prison sentence in another Member State.
However, the EAW has severe implications for the persons concerned. The EAW involves the arrest and deportation of a person for the purposes of standing trial or to serve a sentence in a country other than where the person is located. This typically involves detention in the country of arrest as well as where the person is deported. Deprivation of liberty is amongst the harshest of measures that states can take against people and such measures should only be imposed in exceptional circumstances as a measure of last resort. In addition to the loss of liberty (and the life-changing impact it can have), in a cross-border setting, because of the long distance in a cross-border setting, people face even more separation from their families, potential job loss, and may be sent to a country where they have no social ties, support system or don’t even speak the language.
Over the past year, Fair Trials (in partnership with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Fundamental and Human Rights in Austria, the Centre for European Constitutional Law in Greece, the Irish Council for Liberties in Ireland, the European Institute of Public Administration in Luxembourg and Cecilia Rizcallah for Fair Trials in Belgium) conducted research in Austria, Belgium, Greece, Ireland and Luxembourg to identify what obstacles there are to the use of alternative measures in cross-border proceedings.