Thursday

14th Dec 2017

Assange case highlights EU arrest warrant 'abuses'

  • Julian Assange is to be extradited on an EU warrant (Photo: wikipedia)

The EU arrest warrant scheme under which WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is set to be extradited to Sweden is a "threat to human rights," as it is often abused with harsh consequences for the lives of the people concerned, Europe's chief human rights defender Thomas Hammarberg said Tuesday (15 March).

"The request made by Sweden to the United Kingdom for the surrender of the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, put the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) in the headlines," said Hammarberg, who is the high commissioner for human rights with the Council of Europe, a Strasbourg-based intergovernmental organisation.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Created in 2002 as a "fast-track extradition scheme" for persons suspected or convicted of serious crimes, the European arrest warrant is in fact used mostly for minor offences and has resulted in a number of cases being brought before the European Court of Human Rights.

"The problems appear to have worsened with the increase of the number of EAWs – there are now an average of more than one thousand per month, the overwhelming majority of which relate to minor crimes," Hammarberg noted.

He cited the imprisonment of innocent persons, disproportionate arrests, violations of procedural rights and the impossibility in some countries for an innocent person to appeal against a decision.

Since the only condition for carrying out the extradition is that the suspect must be accused of a crime carrying a minimum prison sentence of 12 months, judges in the home country of the suspect have few means to verify how justified the charges are.

"There is a need to strengthen the human rights safeguards in EAW procedures," he stressed, especially since the system "affects thousands of persons every year."

Catherine Heard from Fair Trials International, a British charity offering legal assistance to people arrested in other countries, said that her group has long time documented EAW abuses.

"We have seen the lives and futures of many ordinary people – teachers, firemen, chefs and students –blighted by the European Arrest Warrant, a system that infringes basic rights and fails to deliver a fair and efficient extradition system," she said in a press statement, welcoming Hammarberg's remarks.

In the case of Gary Mann, a fireman who was extradited to serve a two-year prison sentence for alleged hooliganism in Portugal, British courts stated that the warrant was an "embarrassment" to the UK and Portugal, said "serious injustice" had occurred, and that his trial in Portugal breached his basic fair trial rights.

A review of the way the EU arrest warrant has been implemented since 2002 is currently being worked on in the European Commission, with proposals for improvement likely to be published early April, a spokesman for justice commissioner Viviane Reding told this website.

The scheme is unlikely to be scrapped, however, meaning that for WikiLeaks chief Assange, the extradition will still have to be carried out.

Last month, a British judge has ruled that Assange can be extradited to Sweden to be tried on charges of harassing and raping two women. His lawyers have filed an appeal saying Assange could face extradition to the United Sates, imprisonment in Guantanamo Bay and even the death penalty. The appeal is still pending.

Migration looms over summit, as Africa pledges fall short

EU summit leaders on Thursday will not reach any deal on migration, while Italy and the Visegrad Group countries confront each other on the Trust Fund for Africa. The debate on internal EU asylum relocation, however, remains off the table.

News in Brief

  1. Report: Pro-Kremlin trolls targeted Scottish referendum
  2. MEPs vote to allow phosphate additives in kebabs
  3. Babis government sworn in in Czech Republic
  4. Russia looks to crypto-currencies to evade EU sanctions
  5. Juncker embroiled in Luxembourg wire-tapping trial
  6. Kurz close to forming new Austrian right-wing government
  7. Ministers reach deal on fish quotas but overfishing continues
  8. UK parliament to vote on right to veto final Brexit deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  2. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  3. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  4. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  6. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  7. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  8. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  9. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  10. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  11. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  12. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe

Latest News

  1. Tusk migration note prompts institutional 'hysteria'
  2. Migration looms over summit, as Africa pledges fall short
  3. Brits in EU-27 are uncertain, alone and far from protected
  4. 2018 fishing quotas agreed - but Brexit muddies waters
  5. Medical HQ to spearhead EU military push
  6. Facebook to shift ad revenue away from Ireland
  7. EU renews glyphosate approval, pledges transparency
  8. Romania searching for EU respectability