Statewatch News online: Six EU states to introduce arrest warrants a year ahead of time (1)

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UK opts out agreement to early implementation of European arrest warrant - update

At the Informal Meeting of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers held in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, on 13 February the UK government made a commitment to join five other EU governments to introduce the European arrest warrant a year ahead of time - in 2003 rather than the official deadline in 2004. However, the UK government announced on 28 February that it was withdrawing a number of measures from its legislative programme including the introduction of the European arrest warrant. It will now be part of the next "Queen's Speech" in November which means that legislation is unlikely to implemented before 2004.

Story filed 23.2.02

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 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it cannot be formally adopted by the Council of the European Union until parliamentary scrutiny reservations have been withdrawn by Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden and the UK (on 1 February the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee issued a critical report on the issue, but has since "cleared" the measure - withdrawn its scrutiny reserve (Report).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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