European Arrest Warrant

Ensuring an effective defence

The European arrest warrant (EAW) came into force in 2004. It brought in radical change to the extradition process across the European Union. This has led to vast numbers of speedy hearings and surrenders. The EAW was originally promoted as a weapon in the fight against serious cross border crime, but warrants are requested for a wide range of offences and sentence lengths. They may also relate to alleged crimes that occurred many years ago.

There has been much discussion about the merits of the EAW. To date, the majority of reviews have focussed on the legislation and implementing laws. But, in spite of the mechanism afforded for doing so in the enacting legislation, little attention has been given to how a requested person may go about defending an EAW.

This report is the culmination of a two year study reviewing the opportunities to defend a warrant in practice. The study has looked in detail at the operation of the EAW in ten EU member states – Denmark, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and the UK. It has reviewed cases from the perspective of the defence and made assessments of whether it is possible to put forward an effective defence to an EAW request.

The report raises concerns about the absence of effective procedural safeguards and the need to utilise other EU legislation to reduce the draconian and disruptive impact on those subject to an EAW. It makes five key recommendations, concerning:

  1. provision of training for defence lawyers
  2. ensuring dual representation is available in both the executing and issuing states
  3. creating a peer reviewed database through which issuing state lawyers can be accessed
  4. updating the Schengen Information System, through which the majority of warrants are notified, to remove inappropriate alerts
  5. providing appropriate interpretation and translation for EAW proceedings.

The report concludes that, without these changes, safeguards intended to provide an effective defence will continue to fail – leaving the rights of individuals subject to a European arrest warrant inadequately protected.

ISBN: 978 0 907247 54 8

Format and extent: A4 paperback; 178pp
Free to download – click on link below

JUSTICE is grateful to the EU Commission JPEN 2009 programme for assistance in funding this project.


29 August 2012


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