When criminals pay hide and seek

Judicial authorities in the EU member states co-ordinate with one another through the European Arrest Warrant in order to extradite people who are suspected of criminal acts or those who are fugitives from the law. In this way, authorities can fight back against criminality and terrorism in a more efficient way.

The European Arrest Warrant is a legal procedure which hastens the extradition process from one member state to another so that fugitives can be arraigned in Court or to serve a prison sentence in the country where the crime took place.

The warrant strengthens security throughout Europe because it is a tool for judicial authorities to make it easier to catch suspects who are on the run, wherever they have may have fled to in Europe.

Since it came into effect, the European Arrest Warrant has led to thousands of dangerous people being caught. Some of the more renowned cases are: the terrorists involved in the Paris 2015 attack who were captured in Belgium, a person who killed four people at the Brussels museum who was caught in France, a German murderer who was caught in Spain, a suspected drug trafficker from Malta who was caught in London, and a group of armed thieves who were being sought after by Italy who were caught in six different countries.

Prior to 2004, the extradition process would take approximately a year until the person was sent back to the country which was asking for their arrest. The extradition was agreed upon between different member states and sometimes the decision was even taken on a political level. Some member states did not even used to accept for the person to be extradited. However, since 2004, the European Arrest Warrant means it is the judicial authorities who by means of direct contact with each, as well as mutual trust and full co-operation, have 60 days to decide whether the person should be extradited. In this case, the person has to be extradited within  ten days.

Today, a member state can only refuse to extradite a person in very specific cases. A European Arrest Warrant is issued if a person is accused of a crime which carries more than a year’s jail sentence or if they would have been sent to jail for a minimum four years. In this way the warrant is linked to serious offences, long prison sentence and the gains made if the person is extradited. People who are being sought after for extradition have the same rights as other citizens in cases such as this, in order words the right to an interpreter during criminal proceedings, the right to be informed of their rights, the right to a lawyer, and to communicate with family members and their employer, and the right to legal aid.

In the first ten years since it was implemented, the European Arrest Warrant proved to be the best EU instrument in the field of criminal justice. This can be seen from the number of times it has been used and the fact that this number has doubled. This also means that more people are being found in other EU countries and extradited successfully towards the country where they. have been accused or sentenced for certain crimes.

For more information about EU justice you can log into the European Justice Portal of the European Commission. This portal is intended as a one stop shop in the justice sector. As the information is in 23 languages, this portal improves access to the EU’s judicial system.

This information was compiled by:

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