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European Arrest Warrants


The European Arrest Warrant (EAW) 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.

Originally intended as an instrument of cooperation in the fight against serious cross-border crimes, the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) is now disproportionately used for all types of offences, with negative impacts on people's fundamental rights. People subject to EAWs are typically deprived of their liberty, either at a pre-trial stage pending their surrender or after sentencing for the execution of detention orders.


Less restrictive alternative measures have been adopted by the EU, including: 

  • The European Supervision Order which allows a judicial authority to impose pre-trial supervision measures, such as an electronic bracelet, on a person residing in another Member State.

  • The European Investigation Order which allows investigating authorities to gather evidence across borders such as testimonies via video link without having to request that persons be arrested and physically transferred.

In practice, however, these alternatives to detention are routinely disregarded, while the use of the EAW has steadily increased since 2005. Prison overcrowding in Europe remains alarming. This worsens prison conditions and undermines mutual trust and the functioning of mutual recognition instruments like the EAW. The COVID-19 pandemic brought the prison crisis to the fore, highlighting the risk of incarceration to life and health. The long-standing crisis in EU prisons is driven in part by excessive use of pre-trial detention. More than 20% of the prison population in Europe are persons held in pre-trial detention, despite being presumed innocent.

On 18th February 2021, we held an event on alternatives to European Arrest Warrants and pre-trial detention in EU cross-border proceedings. Watch the panels on YouTube below:

PANEL ONE                                                                 PANEL TWO

EAWALT_PANEL1.png             EAWALT_PANEL2.png

Our Research

Together with national partners, Fair Trials conducted research to identify the obstacles to the use of alternative measures, focusing on Austria, Belgium, Greece, Ireland and Luxembourg. Our findings show a clear lack of knowledge regarding these instruments. They also reveal continued overreliance on detention. Judges, prosecutors and lawyers lack faith in alternatives to detention, in particular in cross-border proceedings where the risk of absconding is nearly automatically presumed for non-nationals or non-residents. They are at greater risk of being detained pending trial than nationals simply because they are from a different EU State or have exercised their right to free movement within the EU. This systemic and systematic difference of treatment conflicts with the EU’s commitment to non-discrimination.

The report calls for the European Commission to adopt shared standards on pre-trial detention in order to strictly limit its use to a measure of last resort and put an end to prison overcrowding. Click here to read the report 'Protecting Fundamental Rights in Cross-Border Proceedings'.

Fair Trials has also produced a policy paper identifying five key priorities areas for EU action to bring the EAW system within the framework of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and rule of law. Click here to read the paper 'Reinforcing procedural safeguards and fundamental rights in EAW proceedings'.

Training Materials

The European Institute of Public Administration (EIPA) have provided an overview video on the overuse of the European Arrest Warrant and pre-trial detention. Click the image below to watch:


EIPA have also provided a selection of training materials on alternatives to the European Arrest Warrant:


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Some activities in the following sections on this website are funded by the European Union’s Justice Programme (2014-2020): Legal Experts Advisory Panel, Defence Rights Map, Case Law Database, Advice Guides, Resources, Campaigns, Publications, News and Events. This content represents the views of the authors only and is their sole responsibility. It cannot be considered to reflect the views of the European Commission or any other body of the European Union. The European Commission does not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.