European arrest warrant system 'not meant to be used tactically,' says trials expert
"EU citizens should have fair treatment," states regional director in Europe of the Fair Trials human rights NGO
Fair Trials is a human rights group dedicated to fighting for equal rights when it comes to justice. As it says in their vision, they aim for “a world where every person’s right to a fair trial is respected.” Catalan News spoke with its regional director in Europe, Ralph Bunche, to find out the organization’s stance on the proceedings against pro-independence leaders being prosecuted in Spain.
Puigdemont has faced two different European Arrest Warrants. The first one was withdrawn when he was still in Belgium. A second one was recently used to detain him in Germany. In the article, you say that his arrest challenges the principles of the extradition mechanism to the very core. Why?
What we’re concerned about in this case is that the case went before a Belgian court and withdrawn because the Spanish criminal justice authorities that they wouldn’t get the decision they wanted. From all appearances, they seem to have decided that it would get a better decision in Germany. That challenges the principles of the European arrest warrant system, which is not meant to be used tactically like this. It’s meant to be used as a normal judicial process, respecting the courts of each member state. For us, we question why the Belgian courts were not given the opportunity to decide on the case.
"European law is based on the idea that wherever you are you should have some element of equal treatment"
Ralph Bunche · regional director of Fair Trials
You say that one of the premises of the Europe Arrest Warrant is that individuals should expect their rights to be similarly respected no matter where in Europe they are. Does this really apply to all EU citizens, especially with regard to the pro-independence leaders prosecuted in Spain?
The principle that EU citizens should have fair and even treatment across the European Union should apply to all EU citizens, and in fact to all people within the European Union. The concept of the European law is based on the idea that wherever you are you should have some element of equal treatment, some element of equality, in the way that your rights are being respected by a court of law.
What measures should be taken in order to address the problems we've discussed?
This is a difficult question. I think at Fair Trials we’ve been arguing that the European arrest warrant system needs to be revised and revisited. We need to have a framework decision that guarantees that people will not be surrendered when there’s a risk of fundamental rights violations, for example, in the issuing member state. The other thing beyond changing legislation that we would like to see, is questions, if there are any questions outstanding in the operation of the European arrest warrant that any court has, whether it’s a court in Spain or a court in Germany, we would like to see those questions referred to the court of justice of the European Union so that the CJEU can decide on how the system should operate.