EU: JHA Council to authorise signing of EU-USA agreements on extradition and mutual legal assistance


The meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council (JHA) in Luxembourg on Thursday 5
June is expected to to mandate the Presidency to sign the controversial agreements with the
USA on extradition and mutual legal assistance. This will be followed by the formal signing
of the agreements at the EU-US Summit on 25 June. Any future bilateral - between an EU
member state and the USA - "will have to be compatible with these EU-US agreements." A
new version of the two agreements, together with some limited explanatory notes is now
available (dated 3 June 2003): EU-US agreements (pdf)

The draft agreements have been under discussion since last summer but were not
de-classified from their "Confidential" status until 6 May 2003 after a long campaign by civil
society (see: EU: Council capitulates and releases draft EU-US agreements: Report) Only
then were national parliaments and the European parliament - who under the EC Treaty's
Articles 24 and 38 do not have to be consulted - able to discuss the issues raised. The UK
parliament is still taking evidence on the issue.

On Tuesday 3 June the European Parliament at its plenary session adopted a critical report
by a large majority (Report on EU-US agreements (pdf). The vote was 356 MEPs in
favour of the report, 63 against and there were 35 abstentions. An attempt to call on the
Council to reject the draft agreements was supported by 174 MEPs but 243 were against.

The Resolution agreed by the parliament says that:

"it is paradoxical to sign an agreement with the United States when several
European Union citizens are still being held at the US military base at Guantanamo
Bay, quite unlawfully under both US and international law and without the slightest
guarantee that they will receive a fair trial"

The parliament has called for the signature to the agreements to be made conditional on
finding a fair solution on those held at Guantanamo Bay.

It also calls for: an absolute guarantee that authorisation for extradition cannot be given
where a person might be brought before a military tribunal or who might face the death
penalty; guarantees on the correct use of data supplied and the rights of a data subject to
get access to data held on them and for the right of erasure or correction to be included;
that joint monitoring committees be established at parliamentary level; and that EU member
states should give priority to obligations under the International Criminal Court rather than
an non-EU state.

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, comments:

"The Council of the European Union intends to go ahead and authorise the signing of
these agreements as they stand at the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 5 June,
the views of the European Parliament will simply be ignored. When they come back
to national parliaments for ratification they will not be allowed to change a dot or
comma.

The agreement on extradition leaves open the question whether EU member states
can extradited people who may face the death penalty and is silent on the issue of
handing over evidence which may be used in a case where the death penalty may
result.

The agreement on mutual legal assistance contains no data protection rights for those
on whom information is gathered or who are put under surveillance as a result of a
request from the USA. No rules are laid down for the accountability and scrutiny of
what will be in effect self-regulating joint investigations teams"

Amnesty International

Amnesty International has issued

 

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