The controversial arrest of a leading German playwright has sparked fresh controversy about alleged abuse of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) by some EU member states
A leading activist group has called on the EU to revamp the system which it says is “vulnerable to abuse.”
The alleged shortcomings of the scheme are highlighted by the case of Alexander Adamescu who was arrested on the basis of a warrant issued by Romanian authorities who have accused him of complicity with his businessman father in allegedly bribing judges.
The 38-year-old Alexander, who lives with his wife and three young children in London, strenuously denies the charges and his case has been taken up by the leading Brussels-based NGO Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF).
Its director Willy Fautre said the affair illustrates how the EAW scheme is not working well, with countries like Romania abusing it.
HRWF has demanded that the warrant against Adamescu is withdrawn and the Romanian authorities “end the personal and economic harassment” against his family and their businesses.
The case, said Fautre, has also reopened the debate on Britain’s likely exit from the EAW system when it eventually leaves the EU.
HRWF is supporting Adamescu who is accused of alleged offences of corruption in Romania for which his father received a sentence of four years and four months imprisonment.
Alexander was arrested in London on 13 June 2016 before he was due to speak at a conference on the abuses of Eastern European countries of the EAW. Romania issued a warrant against Adamescu after being informed of his presence at the conference. Adamescu, who has lived in the UK since 2012 and works as a playwright, denies all allegations raised by Romania's National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA).
His father was the owner of Romania’s biggest insurer, Astra, and the conservative newspaper Romania Libera.
In May 2014, however, he was accused of bribing judges and, after what was branded a “show trial”, was convicted.
Adamescu is now wheelchair-bound due to crippling knee arthrosis for which he has been refused much needed surgery.
The EAW is an arrest warrant valid throughout all member states of the EU which the European Commission claims has speeded up the time it takes to extradite someone.
By removing the political and administrative stages and hurdles of individual states, it allows for the arrest and unquestioned extradition of a named criminal suspect or sentenced individual from one-member state to another so that the person can be put on trial or complete a detention period.
An EAW can only be issued for the purposes of conducting a criminal prosecution (not merely an investigation), or enforcing a custodial sentence. It can only be issued for offences carrying a minimum penalty of 12 months or more in prison.
But advocates of human rights and commentators from both the left and right of UK politics, have argued that the Romanian government’s case against Alexander Adamescu is “flawed and politically motivated.”
Fautre told this website, “HRWF considers he should not be extradited as Romania has been blacklisted by several NGOs for the lack of independence and the corruption of its judiciary.
“This was a sufficient reason for Sweden to grant asylum to a Romanian citizen and to refuse several times his extradition on the grounds that he would not have a fair trial in his country.”
Fautre added, “Considering that not all EU countries have fair legal systems and the EAW is vulnerable to abuse, the EU should take some initiatives to limit the risks of misuse of the EAW by an EU member state.”
The EAW is “sometimes operating in a legal black hole” and the EU should improve the filtering out of a “wanted person” alert and “give back some judicial sovereignty” to a member state requested to extradite a “wanted person.”
Concern about the EAW is not limited to the Adamescu case as, according to Fautre, there are “increasingly clear signals” that some EU member states may use the EAW system for political purposes.
“In Poland, the governing Law and Justice party has recently announced legislation which would criminalise references to ‘Polish concentration camps’ or ‘Polish death camps’. In this case, the EAW might be misused to prosecute journalists and researchers,” he noted.
Fair Trials International (FTI), the London-based human rights NGO, highlighted several cases which demonstrate that the EAW system is causing “serious injustice and jeopardising the right to a fair trial.”
UK MEP Gerard Batten, a member of the LIBE committee, said, "This particular case concerns a Romanian citizen but British citizens are equally at risk from arbitrary and unjust imprisonment because of the European Arrest Warrant. When we leave the EU we must repatriate all these powers that have been surrendered to the EU."
Further comment comes from Ben Kelly, Executive Director of Conservatives for Liberty, who said the issuing of a EAW against Adamescu “clearly amounts to a case of political persecution.
He said, “Somehow, this reprehensible abuse is occurring in a fellow EU member state in 2016. Britain must do the right thing and refuse to send Alexander Adamescu to face the same kangaroo court. It is evident that the warrant is politically motivated and Alexander Adamescu’s human rights are likely to be violated. There’s little chance of a fair trial when guilt has been spuriously attributed from the outset.”
Leading UK commentator Stephen Pollard said the EAW system is “fundamentally flawed”, adding, “It can lead to the incarceration of good people who fall foul of 'bad regimes.'
“The key problem with this agreement is the premise on which it is built — that all 28 EU member states have equally robust legal systems and independent judiciaries. They do not. And the consequences of that imbalance are becoming clear.”