Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Another Victim Of The European Arrest Warrant

This morning, Radio 4’s Today programme reported on the disturbing case of Edmond Arapi, an Albanian living in Britain who faces a 16-year jail term in Italy for a murder committed in Genoa in 2004.

Witnesses say he was working at a café in Leek in Staffordshire – 780 miles away – at the time of the murder and his lawyers claim he is a victim of mistaken identity. The charity Fair Trials International say his case highlights flaws in the European Arrest Warrant, a fast-track system created in 2002 for surrendering people from one European country to another to face trial or serve a prison sentence.

Arapi is not the first person to be tried in absentia or to discover, years later, that his life has been thrown into turmoil. In 2007, a woman named Deborah Dark from Richmond in London was arrested at gunpoint whilst on holiday in Turkey. Unbeknown to her, two years earlier a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) had been issued by French authorities seeking her extradition to serve a prison sentence for drugs charges she had been acquitted of in 1989. Without informing her, prosecutors had appealed against her acquittal and, in her absence, it was overturned and she had been sentenced to 6 years’ imprisonment.

Dark was released by Turkish police and back in the UK, the Serious Organised Crime Agency told her that there was no EAW listed in her name. However in 2008, she was again detained whilst on a trip to Spain and spent a month in custody before Spanish courts refused to extradite her to France. But on her return to the UK, she was re-arrested at Gatwick airport under the same. EAW It was not until April 2009, after five months on bail, that Westminster Magistrates’ Court also refused her extradition on the grounds that she would not receive a fair trial.

As there is no provision for the withdrawal of an European Arrest Warrant, Dark is still at risk of being re-arrested on the same EAW if she ever leaves the UK and travels in Europe.

Far from delivering justice, the European Arrest Warrant is resulting in serious miscarriages of justice. EAWs have been used to send thousands of people to other EU member states – earlier this year the Law Gazette reported that in 2008, nearly 14,000 warrants were issued and 351 people were extradited under EAWs from the UK alone. Many have been for the most minor offences or for those allegedly committed many years ago. They have also led to prison sentences that are the result of an unfair trial or evidence obtained through police brutality. People have been forced to spend months or even years in detention before they appear in court to establish their innocence.

More information on Edmond Arapi’s case can be found on the Fair Trials International website


Mike Law said...

And you can thank a Labour government for it appearing in the statute books.

Kevin said...

It's reckoned that it only takes 18 months for new ministers to go native in Whitehall - so thirteen years of power explains why there are a fair number of draconian and unjust laws we can 'thank' a Labour government for.

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