"Beyond Surrender" is an EU-wide project that has spent the past two years looking at the use of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) and its impact on the life of surrendered people and their families.
An EAW is issued by a judge or prosecutor in one EU member state (the "issuing member state") to seek the arrest and surrender of a person present in another (the "executing member state) to stand trial or serve a sentence.
Liberties member Rights International Spain (RIS) has been the partner organization in Spain tasked with conducting the research, identifying and monitoring cases of surrendered people to Spain pursuant to EAWs issued by Spanish judicial authorities. See the full research report here.
Despite an extensive search, RIS could find no record of courts using, prior to issuing an EAW, a measure to obtain an interview with a suspect through other means provided for in the law, such as video-conferencing.
This means that, in many cases, the EAW is used disproportionately despite the fact that the courts have alternative measures (i.e. judicial cooperation). RIS learned of two cases where the suspect had been unable to convince a Spanish court to allow video-conferencing instead of a surrender for an interview. RIS also found one case where a person was surrendered from Romania, yet the trial in Spain was carried out via video-conference, the surrendered person being held in a prison in a different city.
The research also concluded that EAWs are being issued for minor offenses and without proper consideration of its proportionality. The research found one case, for example, of an EAW being issued for a person alleged to have stolen two radio CD players from two cars.
Defense lawyers shut out
EAWs are still disproportionately used in the initial stages of investigations as a measure to ensure suspects can be interviewed or to locate a person in order to summon him or her to trial, when the law does not allow it. RIS found cases of surrender to Spain merely for interviews, after which the surrendered person was released with no means of getting home.
During the research, RIS did not find any cases where the lawyers participated in the process prior to the issuing of an EAW. The participation of the lawyers is fundamental to guarantee an effective defense, especially by challenging the issuance of an EAW at a preliminary phase or requesting the adoption of alternative measures.