European Arrest Warrant can lead to injustice, say MPs

While warrant has streamlined extradition process, it has also facilitated miscarriages of justice, says House of Commons report

Warsaw: Poland leads the extradition league table, having put in nearly 4,000 requests in 2011, compared with 2,138 from Germany, 912 by France, 205 from the United Kingdom, though Ireland’s numbers are higher, coming at 384. Photograph: Kacper Pempel/Reuters

Warsaw: Poland leads the extradition league table, having put in nearly 4,000 requests in 2011, compared with 2,138 from Germany, 912 by France, 205 from the United Kingdom, though Ireland’s numbers are higher, coming at 384. Photograph: Kacper Pempel/Reuters

Fri, Nov 1, 2013, 01:07

British MPs said that while European Arrest Warrant had streamlined extradition in the European Union, it had come “at a heavy price” for those who have suffered injustice at its hands.

Under its rules, each EU state recognises legal systems operating in other member states even though rules “vary significantly”, the House of Commons home affairs committee said in their report.

“Some countries may seek extradition simply to expedite their investigations, whereas others do so in pursuit of relatively minor crimes. For these reasons the UK receives disproportionately more warrants than it issues.

“Not only does this undermine credibility in the system, it is also costly to the taxpayer.

“It has also facilitated miscarriages of justice in a number of cases, irrevocably damaging the lives of those affected,” they complain.

Poland leads the extradition league table, having put in nearly 4,000 requests in 2011, compared with 2,138 from Germany, 912 by France, 205 from the United Kingdom, though Ireland’s numbers are higher, coming at 384.

Under Polish legal rules, prosecutors have no choice but to issue an extradition warrant in cases where a person could be given more than a four month sentence in jail, which has led to applications “for relatively minor offences”

“Examples have included ..... exceeding a credit card limit, piglet rustling, and the theft of a wheelbarrow, some wardrobe doors, a small teddy bear, and a pudding,” said MPs.

The Commons committee supported the British government’s plans to change the operation of the arrest warrant in British courts, but warned that “uncertainty” exists about whether unilateral reforms will be accepted by the European Commission.

One Briton, Andrew Symeou, was extradited to Greece in 2009 following the death of a young man at a nightclub on a Greek island, despite evidence that police had violently intimidated witnesses. “He spent 11 months in a Greek jail in appalling conditions before being released on bail. Even then he was prevented from leaving the country until he was cleared by the Greek court in June 2011,” MPs said.