Defending the
Human Right
to a
Fair Trial

Extradition Reform

Online training: Cross-Border Cases and Human Rights

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Natalia Gorczowska

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Fair Trials joins with criminal justice experts on European Arrest Warrant

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What is the problem?

Since 9/11, countries have made it quicker and easier to extradite people (the legal process for transferring people from one country to another to face trial or serve a sentence). Effective extradition systems are crucial but these changes have come at the cost of respect for basic human rights, with people being extradited to countries where their human rights are at serious risk, months or years before a trial is due to start, for minor crimes where the human and financial cost of extradition is disproportionate. A major focus of our work has been the European Arrest Warrant, a fast-track system for surrendering people from one EU country to another.

What do we want?

We want countries to have effective extradition arrangements so that they can fight serious cross-border crime and terrorism, but we believe extradition laws can and should contain safeguards to ensure that basic human rights are respected. The safeguards we are seeking include:

  • Protection against people being extradited when there is a real risk they will be subjected to serious human rights abuses;
  • A requirement to exhaust less severe alternatives 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.

What are we doing?

Fair Trials has been campaigning for fairer extradition laws since 2009. We are:

Within Europe, we are also working to improve respect for basic fair trial rights, to build a sound basis for trust in all EU countries’ justice systems. This is needed for the fair operation of the European Arrest Warrant (see EU Defence Rights).


Persuading states to match effective extradition laws with safeguards for human rights has been a challenge but our campaign is working:

  • We have generated press coverage on the need for extradition reform in the mainstream press including the Economist, the Times and the Huffington Post, amongst others.
  • Many of our reform recommendations were adopted in the UK’s extradition review, and the UK’s Extradition Act has been amended to include many of the safeguards we have sought;
  • We have intervened in many serious cases of injustice – see the case of Andrew Symeou for example; and
  • In January 2014, the European Parliament adopted a report calling for the new EU laws to introduce EU-wide safeguards in the European Arrest Warrant.