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”, writes Martin Banks.
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 (16 October).
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 added: “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.”
EU imposes sanctions on Russians linked to Navalny poisoning and detention
The Council today(2 March) decided to impose restrictive measures on four Russian individuals responsible for serious human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests and detentions, as well as widespread and systematic repression of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and freedom of opinion and expression in Russia.
Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, Igor Krasnov, the Prosecutor-General, Viktor Zolotov, head of the National Guard, and Alexander Kalashnikov, head of the Federal Prison Service have been listed over their roles in the arbitrary arrest, prosecution and sentencing of Alexei Navalny, as well as the repression of peaceful protests in connection with his unlawful treatment.
This is the first time that the EU imposes sanctions in the framework of the new EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime which was established on 7 December 2020. The sanctions regime enables the EU to target those responsible for acts such as genocide, crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations or abuses such as torture, slavery, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests or detentions.
The restrictive measures that entered into force today in follow up to discussions by the Foreign Affairs Council on 22 February 2021 consist of a travel ban and asset freeze. In addition, persons and entities in the EU are forbidden from making funds available to those listed, either directly or indirectly.
- Official Journal of the EU: Council Decision and Implementing Regulation concerning restrictive measures against serious human rights violations and abuses (including list of sanctioned individuals)
- Foreign Affairs Council, 22 February 2021
- Russia: Declaration by the High Representative on behalf of the EU on the arrest of Alexei Navalny upon his return, 18 January 2021
- EU adopts a global human rights sanctions regime, 7 December 2020 press release
Nine EU-supported films compete in the 2021 Berlin International Film Festival
The 71st Berlin International Film Festival began on 1 March, this year in its digital edition due to the coronavirus pandemicnine EU-supported films and series, three of which are competing for the highest prize, the Golden Bear: Memory Box by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Nebenan (Next Door) by Daniel Brühl, and Természetes fény (Natural Light) by Dénes Nagy. The EU supported the development and co-production of these nine titles with an investment of over €750 000 that was awarded through the Creative Europe MEDIA programme. Targeted to film professionals and media, the Berlinale film festival is hosting the European Film Market, where the Creative Europe MEDIA programme is active with a virtual stand as well as with the European Film Forum. The Forum that will take place online on 2 March will gather various professionals from the industry to discuss the future perspectives for the audiovisual sector in Europe. The Berlinale will run until 5 March, when the winning films will be announced. The second round of this year's festival, ‘The Summer Special', will take place in June 2021 and will open the films to the public and host the official Award Ceremony. More information is available here.
Yemen: €95 million in EU humanitarian aid for people threatened by conflict and famine
The European Commission is allocating €95 million in humanitarian support to address the most pressing needs of people in Yemen amid record highs of child malnutrition, an imminent threat of famine and renewed fighting. More than 2 million children as well as over 1 million pregnant women and mothers are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021, while escalating hostilities are forcing thousands of families to leave their households.
The new funding was announced by the Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič, at the high-level pledging event for Yemen on 1 March co-hosted by the United Nations, Sweden and Switzerland. Commissioner Lenarčič said: "The EU does not forget the dire situation of people in Yemen who are once again on the brink of famine after bearing the brunt of the world's worst humanitarian crisis. New EU funding will be essential in maintaining life-saving aid for millions of people, exhausted after a disastrous year marked by fighting, COVID-19 and further economic collapse. Parties to the conflict need to facilitate the access of humanitarian organisations to those most in need and avoid further civilian suffering. Now more than ever it is crucial that International Humanitarian Law and unrestricted access to those in need are upheld.”
In 2021, EU humanitarian aid will continue to provide food, nutrition and healthcare, financial assistance, water and sanitation, education and other lifesaving support to the conflict-displaced and those in severe need. The press release is available online.
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