European Arrest Warrants (EAWs) can be issued by any EU country. When a request is made, the police in the country where the suspect resides must arrest them.
The biggest problem with the EAW system is that there are very limited grounds for appeal:
- A procedural error, whereby the paperwork has not been filed correctly. Once this is corrected, the EAW can be re-issued.
- Double jeopardy, the crime is not a crime in the country asked to make the arrest, or the person is below the age of criminal responsibility in the country asked to make the arrest.
- If the suspect is likely to have their human rights violated if they are extradited. However, even when the evidence is compelling judges often rule in favour of the EAW.
Wide open to abuse
The EAW system assumes that the criminal justice systems in all EU countries are of equal quality, but we know that is not the case. There are many examples of poor quality evidence gathering, misidentification of suspects, politically motivated prosecutions and unfair trials.
British judges cannot reject EAWs because of a lack of evidence. The judge is not able to even consider the evidence (or lack of evidence) against the suspect as part of the extradition hearing. This is the key part of the system that Due Process wants to be reformed: we believe that countries requesting extradition should be required to present a prima facie case, not arguing guilt or innocence but proving that there is sufficient evidence to show a trial is required.
Some EU countries use European Arrest Warrants to persecute political opponents.
- Human Rights Without Frontiers have highlighted the case of Alexander Adamescu, a German citizen residing in London who is wanted for extradition by Romania.
- Many commentators have argued that the European Arrest Warrant issued for Carles Puigdemont, deposed President of Catalonia, Spain, is politically motivated.
As part of the presumption of innocence principle, people accused of a crime should usually be released while they wait to face trial. But in some countries people are routinely remanded in custody before trial, and then face long waits for trial. In some cases this means innocent people are imprisoned for years.
- Fair Trials International has highlighted problems long pre-trial detention in various EU countries. Read the report: A Measure of Last Resort? The practice of pre-trial detention decision-making in the EU
- The best known case in the UK of pre-trial detention is that of Andrew Symeou, who was imprisoned for just over 18 months in appalling conditions in Greece before being found innocent at trial.
Presumption of innocence principle
Being presumed innocent until proven guilty is a cornerstone of the UK’s legal system. This principle ensures that people get a fair trial
- Fair Trials International highlighted a number of concerns around the presumption of innocence principle not being respect in various EU countries including Spain, Romania, Luxembourg and Poland.
In many cases these abuses ultimately add up to one big problem: unfair trials. Some EU countries still do not have adequate protections to ensure trials are fair, resulting in miscarriages of justice.
- Garry Mann was convicted in Portugal in a trial described by a British police officer present as a “farce” and by a UK court as “so unfair as to be incompatible with [his] right to a fair trial”.
- In Romania Dan Adamescu’s trial showed political interference in the judiciary, and was essentially a ‘show trial’.
- Fair Trials International gives country-by-country information on human rights violations on the ground of unfair trials.
Inhumane prison conditions
Several EU countries have been found to have inhumane prison conditions. This is not just a case of prisoners getting a bit of a ‘rough ride’ or being uncomfortable – these are sometimes medieval conditions which have led to deteriorating health and death.
- Romania has been repeatedly censured by the European Court of Human Rights and others for inhumane or degrading treatment, including horrific prison conditions.
- Hungary has been repeatedly criticised for similar violations.
- Concerns have also been raised repeatedly in relation to Greek prison conditions, including by extradition lawyers