EU Court Denies Brexit Challenge to Arrest Warrant

(CN) – Britain’s looming exit from the European Union does not delegitimize an arrest warrant executed on that country’s behalf for a man accused of rape, murder and arson, the EU’s top court ruled Wednesday.

Backing a recommendation given last month by Advocate General Maciej Szpunar, the ruling this morning from the European Court of Justice identifies the accused in question only by his initials, RO.

One month after U.K. authorities issued a European arrest warrant for him in January 2016, RO was arrested in Ireland. A second warrant from the UK followed in May 2016, but RO claimed that Brexit negotiations required Ireland to cancel his surrender.

Several other people facing European arrest warrants by British and Northern Irish authorities have brought similar challenges to their extraditions from the Republic of Ireland meantime, including Declan Duffy, a former leader of the Irish National Liberation Army who was convicted of the 1992 killing of a British soldier, is one such challenger.

Duffy was convicted in 2010 but later freed under the Good Friday Agreement, only to face extradition because U.K. authorities say his role in an assault breached the conditions of his release.

With the United Kingdom set to exit the EU in March 2019, Ireland’s High Court asked the European Court of Justice to fast-track RO’s case.

The Luxembourg-based court’s First Chamber shot down RO on Wednesday.

“Mere notification by a member state of its intention to withdraw from the European Union … cannot be regarded … as constituting an exceptional circumstance … capable of justifying a refusal to execute a European arrest warrant issued by that member state,” the opinion says.

“However, it remains the task of the executing judicial authority to examine … whether there are substantial grounds for believing that, after withdrawal from the European Union of the issuing member state, the person who is the subject of that arrest warrant is at risk of being deprived of his fundamental rights,” the ruling continues.

Finding nothing in the record to suggest that RO will suffer inhuman or degrading treatment in the UK, the court said “it would not be appropriate, as a general rule, to refuse to surrender him on that basis.
RO still would have the opportunity for recourse after surrender, the ruling notes, within the UK legal system to challenge the lawfulness of his detention conditions.

The ruling also emphasizes that the UK will remain a party to the European Court of Human Rights, regardless of its EU status.

Brexit thus “cannot justify the refusal to execute a European arrest warrant on the ground that the person surrendered would run the risk of suffering inhuman or degrading treatment within the meaning of those provisions,” the court found.

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