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Testing the EU Arrest Warrant

The European Union instituted a European wide arrest warrant in order to speed extradition between Member States, without providing some of the basic precautions that a citizen would expect before being deported to a foreign country. These were established to promote the development of a European ‘judicial space’ under the guise of fighting the ‘war on terror’: an old chestnut these days in the campaign to undermine and reduce civil liberties.

However, the EU arrest warrant is running into the obstacles and minefields of laws and judgements. A recent case involved three French citizens, accused of belonging to a group, that Spain considers to be a terrorist and criminal organisation.

A French court on Tuesday rejected a Spanish request for the extradition of three French people accused of being members of an organisation suspected of financing Basque separatist group ETA, judicial sources said.

Amaia Rekarte, Yves Matxikote and Harritza Gallaraga were detained last month — but later released pending the court’s ruling — after Spain demanded their extradition on charges of belonging to a criminal and terrorist group.

The three accused belong to an organisation, Segi, with Basque sympathies and posssible links to ETA, the Basque terrorist group. However, membership of the organisation is not banned under French law, and Spain was requesting extradition for the three on actions conducted legally in France, whilst being illegal in Spain. It is not clear if the three acted in France alone or in Spain as well.

This appears to have been a ‘fishing trip’ to arrest three Basque sympathisers. It failed as the French judge in Pau argued that French citizens should not be extradited if their actions were legal in their own Member State. The European Commission played down the judgement:

The ruling appears to be a blow to the ambition behind the EU arrest warrant, which was to facilitate extradition in terrorism cases. However, the EU Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs, Antonio Vitorino, does not want to overdramatise the importance of the case. “This is a case of conflicting competences between judges. The arrest warrant as such has not been called into question,” said spokesman Pietro Petrucci to EurActiv.

ETA has murdered over 800 men, women and children since 1968 in pursuit of an independent Basque state. The Spanish are understandably enthusiastic in their wish to prevent further murders in this cause.

1 comment to Testing the EU Arrest Warrant

  • Guy Herbert

    Let us hope that, more locally, the Extradition Act 2003 runs into similar problems against Common Law and human rights legislation. There is even less protection from extradition to the US otherwise.