European Arrest Warrant injustices

Alexander Adamescu is currently fighting a politically motivated European Arrest Warrant (EAW) issued by the Romanian government. But his case is not the only example of European Arrest Warrant injustices.


European Arrest Warrant injustices

The EAW system is vulnerable to abuse and mistakes for two main reasons:

  • It assumes that the criminal justice systems of all EU members states are of the same quality, but they aren’t.
  • EAWs can’t be rejected on the basis that there is no evidence against the accused and no case to answer; UK judges have to trust that other governments have got it right.

These two flaws in the EAW system have led to a range of failings, including mistaken identity, very long pre-trial detention of innocent people, and the politically motivated persecution of innocent people.


1) Andrew Symeou

Perhaps the most infamous example of many European Arrest Warrant injustices in the UK, the case of Andrew Symeou is a shocking one. Symeou was accused of killing a fellow holiday-maker on the island of Zante. He was extradited in 2009, held for more than 10 months in appalling prison conditions which have been censured by organisations including Amnesty International before his trial, and repeatedly denied bail.

Symeou was accused on the basis of statements made by two of his friends, who have since said that these false statements were beaten out of them by police, and that they had feared for their lives. In June 2011 Symeou was found not-guilty by a Greek court, and in 2013 a UK inquest reached the same conclusion.

Andrew Symeou’s case alone shows three ways in which the flaws in the EAW system lead to abuses:

  • Police brutality, to extract false statements from witnesses;
  • Excessively long pre-trial detention, which is a violation of human rights;
  • Horrific prison conditions, which amount to a violation of human rights.

It’s important to note that the EAW system is supposed to mean that refusing bail on the basis of a defendant being a flight risk is no longer an issue, as they can be easily returned under the EAW system. However, many countries continue to refuse bail for this reason.


2) Edmond Arapi

In 2006 Edmond Arapi, originally from Albania but legally living in the UK since 2000, was convicted of murder committed in 2004 at a trial held in his absence in Genoa, Italy. Arapi had no idea that he was accused of a crime, never mind that a trial was happening or that he had been convicted. This lack of due process wasn’t the only problem – Arapi hadn’t left the UK between 2000 and 2006, and was working at a cafe in Staffordshire when the murder was committed. Arapi had never been to Genoa.

He found out in 2009, as he was returning to the UK with his family after a holiday in Albania, when he was stopped and arrested at Gatwick Ariport. At the behest of an EAW Arapi was detained in prison in the UK for several weeks. Fair Trials International brought Arapi’s case to the attention of the media and public, and eventually the Italian authorities realised their mistake and withdrew the EAW.

Edmond Arapi’s case shows that it is a mistake to always trust that the justice systems in other countries are as good as in the UK. In this case, the Italian authorities:

  • Conducted a trial without informing the defendant, making a defence and therefore a fair trial impossible;
  • Convicted someone without taking even basic steps to make sure it was the right person;
  • Went on to seek the extradition of an indisputably innocent man.


3) Deborah Dark

In 1989 Deborah Dark was found not guilty of drug related offences in France. Without her knowledge, and after she has returned to the UK, the prosecutor appealed this result and won – Deborah was never summoned to appear in court, and was never informed that she had been convicted.

She was arrested in Spain in 2008 as she returned from a family holiday. A Spanish judge refused the extradition to France because so much time had passed, but the French authorities refused to drop the EAW and she was detained again in the UK. A UK judge reached the same conclusion, refusing extradition, but the French authorities still refused to drop the EAW. This meant that Deborah was effectively stuck in the UK, until the EAW was finally dropped in May 2010.

This case again exposes the dangers in assuming all justice systems in EAW countries are of the same quality. It also shows that even when courts refuse to extradite, European Arrest Warrant injustices can continue when the issuing authorities are spiteful.


4) Garry Mann

Whilst attending the Euro 2004 football tournament in Portugal, Garry Mann was accused, alongside other football supporters, of causing a riot. He was arrested, and in less than 24 hours he was tried, convicted and sentenced to two years in prison under a fast-track procedure. During his trial he was unable to instruct a lawyer, and inadequate translation facilities meant that he did not know what was going on in court – making it impossible to present a defence and have a fair trial.

Garry was told that he would not have to serve his sentence if he left the country immediately. Back in the UK, a court refused an application to apply a football banning order to Garry on the grounds that he had not received a fair trial and so should be considered not-guilty. Thinking that his ordeal was over, Garry was shocked when he was arrested in 2009 due to an EAW issued by Portugal, demanding his return in order to serve the prison sentence from 2004. The British courts complied with the request, despite the fact that another court had described his trial as: “so unfair as to be incompatible with [his] right to a fair trial.”

These examples of European Arrest Warrant injustices are just the tip of the iceberg, and show that any one of us could have our lives turned upside down by the lack of safeguards in the EAW system.