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Lady Sarah Ludford MEP Questions EAW Abuses
And it's about time.
The case of Julian Assange has again put the European arrest warrant (EAW) in the spotlight. The EAW is a valuable and successful EU instrument, cutting the delays and red tape that in the past allowed major criminals to party beyond the reach of the law.
But the EAW is restricted to 'the purposes of conducting a criminal prosecution', which must mean imminent charge followed by trial. If your reports are correct that the Swedish request for extradition of Assange under an EAW is 'to face questioning' or for 'interview', this would appear to conflict with the high court case of Asztaslos last February, which confirmed that it is not a legitimate purpose for an EAW to be used to conduct an investigation to see whether that person should be prosecuted.
Such issues do not come up only in high-profile EAW cases, but in its everyday implementation. That is why EU justice ministers last June called on national authorities not to misuse the EAW. Normal cross-border cooperation on collection of evidence or interrogation of suspects called 'mutual legal assistance', using for example videoconferencing or a summons for temporary transfer of a suspect, should be used when more appropriate.
Some lack of care by the Swedish authorities seems to be indicated by the fact that the first EAW they issued against Assange omitted details necessary for a UK court to be able to check if the warrant fulfilled all the requirements. I urge the UK courts now to refuse to allow the Assange EAW to be a fishing expedition without a pending actual prosecution. EU rules should be respected so that the integrity of the EAW process is protected.
Sarah Ludford MEP
Guardian: European arrest warrant in spotlight
Guardian: Julian Assange extradition attempt an uphill struggle, says specialist