The European Arrest Warrant (EAW) is an arrest warrant valid throughout all member states of the European Union (EU). Once issued, it requires another member state to arrest and transfer a criminal suspect or sentenced person to the issuing state so that the person can be put on trial or complete a detention period.
An EAW can only be issued for the purposes of conducting a criminal prosecution (not merely an investigation), or enforcing a custodial sentence. It can only be issued for offences carrying a maximum penalty of 12 months or more in prison. Where sentence has already been passed an EAW can only be issued if the prison term to be enforced is at least four months long.
The introduction of the European Arrest Warrant system in 2004 was intended to increase the speed and ease of extradition throughout EU countries by removing the political and administrative phases of decision-making, and converting the process into a system run entirely by the judiciary. Since it was first implemented in 2004 the use of the EAW has steadily risen. Member state country evaluation reports suggest that the number of European Arrest Warrants issued has increased from approximately 3,000 in 2004 to 13,500 in 2008. From 2005-2013, 163,143 EAWs were issued across Europe.
However, controversy surrounds the system. It has been criticised by senior human rights lawyers and several highly respected non-governmental organisations, including Liberty, Big Brother Watch and Fair Trials International. There have been numerous examples of EAWs being issued for sentences resulting from an unfair trial, and in cases later found to be miscarriages of justice. In addition, cases have emerged whereby the issuing state has sought extradition for personal or political reasons, or where evidence has been obtained through police brutality.
Fair Trials – Cases of injustice is a paper by human rights NGO Fair Trials on examples of abuses of European Arrest Warrants.
The European Arrest Warrant and Alexander Adamescu
A British resident fighting extradition to Romania has told how he fears he will die in prison if he is deported to face “unfounded” corruption charges.
Alexander Adamescu says he will suffer the same fate as his father Dan, who has died in hospital as a result of blood poisoning contracted in a Romanian jail.
Mr Adamescu Jnr claims corrupt elements within Romanian state are determined to destroy his family and seize their business assets.
Mr Adamescu Snr, 68, a millionaire businessman who owned one of Romania’s largest opposition newspapers, died in a hospital on Monday night after contracting sepsis at the notorious high security Rahova prison, where he was serving four years for bribery.
His son, who lives in London with his wife and three young children, told The Daily Telegraph: “The appalling treatment of my father demonstrates the total breakdown of the rule of law and due process in Romania, and the vindictive persecution that its government authorities have inflicted upon him.
“By killing my father they have put me on notice of their intentions. If extradited, I fear it would not be long before I, too, would be disposed of and my little children orphaned.”
Mr Adamescu added: “Should the UK ignore my, and many others’ warnings, about the parlous state of justice in Romania and fail to prevent my unlawful extradition, it is inevitable that I will be subject to the same persecution and abuse that claimed my father’s life. I have no doubts that I’m to be done away with next to finish the job.”
Mr Adamescu claims the authorities are using the European Arrest Warrant to seek his extradition from Britain on the pretext of fighting corruption at home.