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Saturday, July 20, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Prison Conditions May|Bar EU Extraditions

(CN) - Authorities need not execute arrest warrants if extradition would lead to inhuman and degrading treatment of the suspect while in prison, the European Court of Justice ruled Tuesday.

The case involves arrest warrants for two men issued by a Hungarian and Romanian court, respectively. The Hungarian national stands accused of two counts of forced entry and theft, while the Romanian national faces nearly two years in prison for driving without a license.

Authorities located both men in Germany and while examining the arrest warrants a court in Bremen determined that prison conditions in both Hungary and Romania violate the EU constitutional prohibitions on inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

Specifically, the German court noted that the European Court of Human Rights found in 2014 and 2015 that systemic overcrowding in Hungarian and Romanian prisons violate their inmates' human rights.

In light of this, the German court asked the European Court of Justice whether the arrest warrants can or must be refused or whether the court had the authority to make extradition conditional on Hungary and Romania guaranteeing proper treatment of the prisoners.

In its preliminary ruling, the Luxembourg-based high court noted that the EU constitution has an absolute prohibition on inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. Accordingly, authorities have an obligation to consider whether execution of the arrest warrant will subject the accused to unconstitutional treatment.

And while general detention conditions are not enough for member-state authorities to decline to execute the warrant, the EU high court said authorities have an obligation to ask for detailed information about prison conditions in the state or nation that issued the warrant before proceeding.

"The execution of the warrant must be deferred until there has been obtained additional information on the basis of which that risk can be discounted," the high court wrote in its ruling, which was not made available in English by press time. "If the existence of that risk cannot be discounted within a reasonable period, that authority must decide whether the surrender procedure should be brought to an end."

The EU high court's preliminary ruling is binding on the Bremen court, which must decide whether to execute the arrest warrants using the high court's guidelines.

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