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Tag Archives: European arrest warrants

The Extradition Act law reform that could – but won’t – help Assange

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Why on earth isn’t the UK Home Secretary banging on the doors of the UK Supreme Court, the European Court of Human Rights, the Swedish Högsta domstolen – whatever it takes – to get Julian Assange released from his (somewhat self-imposed) “arbitrary detention” in the Ecuadorian embassy in London? Theresa May and the Government she serves knows a terrible travesty of justice has occurrred – so much so that they have passed a law to ensure it should never happen to anyone else again.

This, at least, is how the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) explains a new section, 21A of the 2003 Extradition Act, inserted “as a result of perceived abuses raised by Sweden’s European Arrest Warrant” in the Assange case. It adds that, since the Section was added in 2014 “if requested, Mr. Assange’s extradition would not [now] have been permitted by the UK”. The section, added by S.157 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act allows for a “proportionality test” before someone can be extradited under a European Arrest Warrant. So a judge can ask whether there might be a less coercive alternative to extradition – such as interviewing a suspect in Britain rather than in the “requesting state” (ie the one that wants the extradition – Sweden in Assange’s case).

But there is more. Section 156 of the 2014 Act also introduced a new Section 12A to the Extradition Act (below) – which allows a UK judge to assess whether the supect’s presence in the requesting country is really necessary – specifically if investigations have not come close enough to completion to require that presence. This is eerily like Assange’s case since the EAW was issued by prosecutors seeking to interview him, not by judges wishing to arraign him on a criminal charge.

Sadly for Assange, he was not apparently the inspiration for the new legislation – and the Government has insisted it is not retrospective so is unavailable to his cause – though the UNWGAD panel believes it should be. Their thinking, presumably is that if a terrible injustice to suspects has been discovered it should be put right for those who continue to be embroiled in that injustice, not just for the future.

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Theresa May and the European Arrest Warrant: Assange awaits her decision

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British Tory MPs are furious that the Home Secretary Theresa May has gone soft on the European Arrest Warrant. Among others also annoyed at the UK Government’s U-turn, backing a new version of the EAW, will be Julian Assange – one of the victims of the measure that makes it easier to extradite alleged criminals without too much legal protection in their host countries. Assange, as explained below, might have benefited from a more nationalistic, less Eurocentric extradition regime.

The EAW is one of the 133 European Union law and order measures in the European Union Lisbon Treaty that May opted out of – and also one of 35 she wants to opt right back into, though in a reformed version. The EAW is one of those strange areas in which Conservatives and others on the Eurosceptic right are deeply concerned by human rights issues. Enfield North MP Nick de Bois for example, has summed up the EAW issue by saying “cooperation and expediency must not take precedence at the expense of fundamental judicial fairness, fairness and human rights”. (Nick de Bois MP pdf)

Gerard Batten, UKIP MEP calls the EAW “a tick-box defendant transfer form-filling exercise that neuters the discretion any national judge may have had over extradition to European Union countries”.

So what exactly are the perceived problems with the European Arrest Warrant? Read the rest of this entry

Julian Assange, Ukip and Baron Mance in three-in-a-bed legal shocker

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The Supreme Court’s fumbled judgment in the Julian Assange extradition case throws up an interesting anomaly. If you’re a fusty, old-fashioned, nation-state, Euro-sceptic, sovereignty of Parliament sort of chap you’ll be backing Assange, the freewheeling, libertarian Kremlin-supported citizen of the world and destroyer of national security.

Ukip politicians, for example, have rushed to the WikiLeaks founder’s cause since he is defending all they hold dear – or at least battling against all they despise: the European Union and internationalist regulation trampling on our treasured freedoms right back to Magna Carta.

Now Lord Mance has joined these strange bedfellows thanks to his minority judgment in the Supreme Court case.

To explain. This, in brief, is the majority view in the Supreme Court: prosecutors in Sweden have made an application to have Assange extradited to question him about sex allegations; UK law (Section 2(2) of the Extradition Act 2003) says extradition applications under the European arrest warrant (EAW) should be made by a judicial authority. The EU’s Framework Decision that governs EAWs also uses the words “judicial authority”.

Thus Article 1: “(1) The European arrest warrant is a judicial decision issued by a Member State with a view to the arrest and surrender by another Member State of a requested person…”

But international practice has on occasions been that European arrest warrants have been accepted when issued by prosecutors – as in the case of Sweden’s against Assange. The issuing authority’s national laws allow that to happen so the responding states have accepted the warrants.

The result is that contradictory laws and procedures are in existence between member states that are supposed to be singing from the same songbook. Read the rest of this entry

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