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Press release

Fair Trials research lifts the lid on mistreatment of European citizens subjected to European Arrest Warrant

admin - June 25, 2018 - European Arrest Warrant

Fair Trials, the global criminal justice watchdog, is calling for new EU human rights safeguards in order to stem the misuse of the European Arrest Warrant system, the EU’s flagship crimefighting tool, by EU member states

In a comprehensive investigation into what happens to individuals after they are surrendered following a European Arrest Warrant, a fast track extradition system, Fair Trials and its partners in Spain, Poland, Lithuania and Romania have uncovered evidence that shows how ordinary people are being swept into the system ruining their lives and those of their family members.

Cases documented during investigation indicate that, far from being used to apprehend fugitives to be tried for participation in complex cross-border crimes, such as terrorism and organized crime, the purpose for which it was designed, the EAW is too often being used for small offenses or to investigate people. Families are being ripped apart and jobs lost as a result. And people are being surrendered even when there are reasonable reasons to believe that they will not be given a fair trial or will be placed in prolonged pre-trial detention or in prison conditions that fail to meet even the most basic standards of decency.

In one case, for example, a woman was extradited from the Netherlands to Poland while heavily pregnant, and was forced to give birth and care for her new-born baby in a cramped cell with four other mothers and their children, while awaiting trial. In another, a Portuguese man was separated from his family and surrendered to Spain to be interviewed and has been held in pre-trial detention for a year with no trial date set.

The investigation also uncovered numerous instances where people were surrendered after the country requesting the surrender has provided guarantees to the surrendering country regarding how they will be treated after surrender, only for those guarantees to breached as soon as the person arrives, resulting in people being denied the trial that they were promised or put in inhuman conditions that they thought they were protected from.  

These cases include a case of surrender to Portugal from the Netherlands with guarantees that the person will not be held in the notorious Lisbon prison, which were immediately breached on arrival, with the person spending the first 21 days in the country there. They also include the surrender of a person from the UK to Romania with guarantees of a retrial, immediately rescinded upon arrival.

These problems are eroding the trust that EU countries place in each other and are preventing the EAW from operating as the fast-track crimefighting tool that it is meant to be. Between 2004 and 2015, the number of European Arrest Warrants issued boomed from 6,894 to 16,144, and while the number also executed rose (from 836 to 5,304) the gap between issuance and execution has stayed persistently wide. New EU human rights safeguards are needed to resolve this problem.

Fair Trials’ European Regional Director, Ralph Bunche, commented: “The European Arrest Warrant is a valuable tool for fighting serious crime in Europe. But it is undermined when it is used inappropriately, often against people who have committed only minor offences.”

“If a commitment to human rights is really a defining feature of the EU, we must stop treating people like commodities to be shipped across borders no matter how they’ll be treated when they get there. These people can find themselves in unsuitable, even unsanitary conditions, without access to appropriate healthcare, while awaiting trial.”

On 28 June 2018, the day the report and film will be launched, the EU Court of Justice Advocate General will release his opinion in Opinion in Case C-216/18 Minister for Justice and Equality PPU. In this case, the Irish High Court refused to surrender a suspect to Poland because of the attacks to judicial independence in the country. “The Celmer case shows that there are real concerns about the disparity between systems in Europe and the urgent need for human rights reforms – very much in line with our own findings” said Mr. Bunche.

 

Notes to Editors:

The film and report, “Beyond Surrender: Putting Human Rights at the European Arrest Warrant,” produced following this investigation will be launched by Fair Trials on 28 June 2018.

The Beyond Surrender report also contains analysis of the Celmer case reference above. A separate video will also be launched by Fair Trials on June 28 with an interview with the Dean of the Warsaw Bar, Mikolaj Pietrzak, explaining why those attacks prevent such a major threat to rule of law in Europe.

For an embargoed copy of the report or for access to the films or case studies including interviews with people who have been subject to European Arrest Warrants, please contact [email protected].

Pre-recorded interview films are also available on request.

Ralph Bunche is available for comment.

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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