David T C Davies MP: European Arrest Warrant being used to silence political critics
David T C Davies MP argues that the European Arrest Warrant is being used by Governments to shut down critics and must be reformed.
The current European Arrest Warrant (EAW) system is flawed and needs to be reformed. It is built on the assumption that standards of justice are the same in all EU countries, that standards in all prisons are the same, and that bail conditions are likewise near identical.
There are a number of concerning cases. Andrew Symeou, who spent nearly a year in prison, was denied bail, because he was not a Greek resident. In other words, he was extradited because he was a European, but was unable to get bail because he was not actually Greek. Gary Mann was tried and convicted of an affray-type offence within 48 hours of being arrested. He had not, in fact, been involved. He was released, but there was subsequently a demand for him to return to Portugal to serve a two-year sentence.
Today, other cases are coming to light that have more worrying motivations. The Romanian Government have indicated that they may serve an arrest warrant against an award-winning Sky journalist, Stuart Ramsay, and his team, who put together a documentary about gun-running in Romania which the Romanian Government did not like. I do not know whether the claims made were accurate, but he is an award-winning journalist and I have no reason to doubt the veracity of his work. If Governments do not like journalists’ stories about them, they have the right to rebut them, but it is simply unacceptable for Governments to start issuing arrest and judicial proceedings against journalists they do not like.
Another recent case involves the extradition warrant served against Alexander Adamescu, again by the Romanian Government. His father ran a newspaper in Romania which has been highly critical of the Romanian Government. The Romanian Prime Minister at the time said he was corrupt and had him arrested, and he was found guilty in a short space of time. There are all sorts of reasons why one might question the lack of due process in this case but that is not for me here. The point is that when his son, who is a German national and a UK resident, filed charges against the Romanian Government, he was also served with an EAW and was arrested in London on his way to speak to the Frontline Club about the importance of journalistic freedoms and the rule of law.
It appears that, rather than using the EAW to resolve criminality, some Governments seem to be trying to utilise it to send out a message that anyone who questions them or tries to hold them to account will run the risk of being arrested in the countries that they are resident and sent back for trial.
Brexit offers us an opportunity. If some countries are not giving people bail, are holding them in pre-trial detention for an unacceptable length of time, or are using the EAW as a political means to silence criticism, it is absolutely right that we take the opportunity to review the use of the EAW and ensure justice is fair and proportionate. We should work closely with countries that apply our systems of justice but state with the utmost respect that we are unwilling to sacrifice the human rights of people like Alexander Adamescu in order to maintain membership of an unreformed EAW.
David T C Davies is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Monmouth