Six EU governments agree early implementation of European arrest warrant
Six EU governments - the UK, France, Belgium, Portugal, Luxembourg and Spain - have agreed to implement the European arrest warrant a year ahead of the deadline: by the beginning of next year 2003, rather than 2004. The agreement was reached at the Informal Meeting of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers being held in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
The UK Home Secretary David Blunkett said at a press conference that the move "keeps up the momentum" created in the fight against terrorism following 11 September.
The six governments are to invoke Article 27.2 of the Framework Decision creating the European arrest warrant which allows states which have changed their laws to cooperate with others who have done the same.
The Framework Decision was cleared by the European Parliament on 6 February. However, it cannot be formally adopted by the Council of the European Union until parliamentary scrutiny reservations have been withdrawn by Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden and the UK (on 1 February the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee issued a critical report on the issue (Report).
It is noticeable that the governments of Denmark, Netherlands and Sweden have not signed up to the early implementation deal.
Although presented as a means of tackling "terrorism" the European arrest and surrender warrant covers 32 criminal offences - see Observatory documentation for text and for Statewatch analysis of the original proposal see: Analysis (pdf)
Stephen Jakobi, of Fair Trials Abroad, commented that:
"With the exception of Greece, this is a roll call of the countries that have most problems in providing basic rights to people who have been arrested
In practice, judges in Spain, France, Portugal and Belgium are notorious for holding people without evidence in the hope that some evidence will turn up... This [also] fulfils our worst fears about the recklessness of the British government in defending citizens' rights"
Draft text of the European arrest warrant
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