EU Magistrate Flushes Brexit Challenge to Arrest Warrant

(CN) – A man who was arrested in Ireland to face murder, arson and rape charges in the United Kingdom cannot use Brexit as a basis to block his extradition, an EU magistrate judge said Tuesday.

Issued this morning by Advocate General Maciej Szpunar, the opinion is not binding on the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice but it will be given weight as the court begins deliberations in the closely watched case.

While the suspect at issue is identified only by the initials RO, a press release notes that the U.K. issued European arrest warrants for him in January and May 2016.

RO was arrested in Ireland based on the two warrants and has been in custody there since Feb. 3, 2016, but he argued that the U.K.’s withdrawal from the EU meant that Ireland should not surrender him for British prosecution.

Given Britain’s plan to exit the EU in March 2019, Ireland’s High Court asked the European Court of Justice to fast-track the case. In the meantime several other people who are the subject of European arrest warrants by British and Northern Irish authorities have brought similar challenges to their extraditions from the Republic of Ireland. 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 exception of the Brexit issue, RO has received resounding defeats on all points of his objection before Ireland’s High Court.

Advocate General Szpunar recommended Tuesday that the Court of Justice find that the European Arrest Warrant system should remain in effect for as long as the U.K. is a member state.

A press release quotes Szpunar as saying there is no reason to quash the warrant in question.

“In his view, as long as a state is still a member of the EU, EU law applies, including the provisions of the framework decision on the European arrest warrant and the duty to surrender,” the release states.

Indeed, with the exception of the Brexit issues, “there is no separate issue of potential inhuman or degrading treatment in respect of RO’s surrender to the U.K.,” the release states.

It is clear, the ruling continues, that Britain’s decision to withdraw from the EU can hardly be said to represent an intent “to abandon the rule of law or the protection of fundamental rights.”

“Moreover, the U.K. will continue to remain subject to rules of domestic and international law which impose obligations on the U.K. in the context of extradition,” the release states.

Szpunar said there must be tangible evidence of inhuman treatment for a country like Ireland to refuse execute a U.K. arrest warrant.

Szpunar determined as well that the U.K.’s intent to leave the EU should have no bearing on the legal assessment here.

Though the Court of Justice will no longer have jurisdiction over the case after March 29, 2019, Szpunar said this does not present an obstacle to RO’s surrender.

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