EU urged to carry out reform of "flawed and abused" European Arrest Warrant scheme

A respected rights organization says the European Commission should urgently consider a reform of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) “as for years its implementation has been tarnished by numerous flaws.”

 The Arrest Warrant scheme is designed to counter cross-border crime and generally seen as a “useful tool” in combating terrorism and serious crime and speeding up extradition proceedings in the EU.

It was introduced in January 2004, and was prompted by the international anti-terror drive after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US.

 A national judicial authority, such as a court, can issue an EAW to get a suspect extradited.
 
But its effectiveness is currently “undermined” by a “number of flaws”, according to Willy Fautre, director of Brussels based NGO Human Rights Without Frontiers.

The scheme was established to ease the extradition of criminal suspects between EU member states  but Fautre told this website it had been subject to “abuse”, not least by Romania.

The Brussels-based Fautre said that Bucharest “abuses” the European Arrest Warrant, adding: “For example, in 2015-16, there were 1,508 requests of extradition addressed by Romania to the UK while London had only addressed six requests to Bucharest.”

The European Court noted in its last statistics that Romania was the worst violator of human rights in the EU for the lack of fair trials and effective investigation as well as for the “appalling” detention conditions.

He cites the case of businessman and owner of the Romania Libera newspaper Dan Adamescu,  who died earlier this year while serving a prison sentence of four years and four months.

Despite his age (68) and his bad health conditions – he had been in the coma in December – he was not granted an early release or an alternative way of serving his sentence.

Fautre said that Adamescu's son, Alexander Adamescu, a playwright living and working in London, has not been able to attend his father’s funeral because Romania had issued a European Arrest Warrant against him for allegedly being an accomplice in his fraud father’s case, charges he vehemently denies.

The relative lack of law and freedom of justice in Romania and the alleged abuse of the arrest warrant scheme came under the spotlight at a debate in the European Parliament on Tuesday.

Called “Lessons to be learned from Romania: exchange of practices of anti-corruption bodies in Romania and Ukraine", the discussion was hosted by MEPs Rebecca Harms (Greens/EFA) and Petras Auštrevičius (ALDE) and speakers included Laura Codruța Kövesi, Director of the Romanian National Anticorruption Directorate. 

Also speaking on Tuesday, Fautre was particularly critical of Romania saying that protecting human rights and fair trials must be the priority and that these rights must be protected by the EU. 

Fautre commented: “The fight against corruption is an essential component of good governance and Romania is often mentioned as a good pupil in Europe. 

“However, a number of high-level personalities in Romania have raised their voices to denounce the involvement of the Romanian Secret Services in the work of the DNA and its instrumentalization for political and financial settlements of scores.” 

He added: “The first consequence is that among the 72 judgments lost by Romania in 2015 at the European Court - the highest number in the EU - 13 involved cases of a lack of fair trial. 

“The second consequence is the loss of credibility of Romania when it issues a European Arrest Warrant and the refusal of other member states to deport a wanted person as it is the case with the UK with Alexander Adamescu, or with Germany and other countries.”

The UK is not the only member state to refuse an extradition request from Romania: the same thing happened a few years ago when Sweden refused to surrender a Romanian citizen to Bucharest. 

The EAW, he says, is an important tool in combating serious cross-border crime.  

“An efficient system of extradition within the EU is needed, especially to fight terrorism and criminal activities but one flaw is that EAWs are executed despite serious and well-founded human rights concerns.”
 
Fautre said: “All these reasons should seriously be taken into consideration by the executing countries which are requested to implement extradition to Romania as long as the rule of law and prison conditions fail to meet EU standards.”
 
The EAW system, he points out, was founded on mutual recognition, a principle which itself relies on mutual trust in the justice systems of all EU member states.

Fautre said: “Unfortunately, the reality is different. Not all EU member states have a justice system that is in line with EU standards.” 

In 2015 alone, the ECHR delivered 72 judgments (each citing at least one violation) against Romania, the highest number of any EU member state.Among the 47 member states of the Council of Europe, Romania ranked the third highest human rights abuser after the Russian Federation (109 judgments) and Turkey (79 judgments).

“Worryingly”, added Fautre,  “27 of the violations in Romania were for inhumane or degrading treatment of prisoners with many relating to the appalling conditions and treatment in Romanian prisons.”
 
 In 13 cases, the violations were due to the lack of effective investigation and in another thirteen cases to the lack of a fair trial. 

He adds, “The lack of independence of the judiciary due to the interference of external actors, such as politicians or intelligence services, is one of the reasons why some countries refuse to surrender a wanted person. Another argument that is used regards detention conditions. In the case of Romania, domestic and international reports agree to denounce the status of detention conditions with strength person.”

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Martin Banks

Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a highly experienced accredited journalist with many years experience of working with the EU institutions. He is an occasional contributor to EU today, writing on a wide variety of issues.

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