Prison Improvements Lift Cloud on Extraditions to Hungary

(CN) – Improvements in Hungary’s prison system – namely, allowing inmates to sue over inhuman or degrading treatment – obligates law enforcement and courts to comply with arrest warrants issued by Hungarian authorities, an EU magistrate said Wednesday.

Germany’s request for a preliminary ruling from the European Court of Justice involves the case of a Hungarian man sentenced to prison in absentia on charges of bodily harm, property damage, fraud and theft. After German police arrested the man, Hungarian authorities demanded he be extradited to serve out his prison sentence.

The man opposed extradition, claiming he would be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment common in Hungarian prisons. The German court deciding the extradition asked Hungarian authorities for details on where the man would be detained and for assurances he would be treated well.

While Hungarian authorities were slow in providing the German court with the requested information, they eventually answered and noted 2016 legislation that gave inmates access to the courts to complain about prison abuse. But the delay in receiving answers – and concerns the Hungarian legislation hadn’t fully taken effect – led the German court to ask for clarification as to whether the legislation was enough to allow the extradition.

In an advisory opinion for the Court of Justice not made available in English, Advocate General Manuel Campos Sanchez-Bordona acknowledged Hungary’s problems with the treatment of inmates. But in light of the legislation – which he said appears to be capable of solving the prison abuse problem – member states can no longer automatically refuse to extradite detainees to Hungary because of its past treatment of inmates.

The magistrate also noted, however, that the German court was right in examining whether enough of the Hungarian legislation had come into force so that the man wouldn’t be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment if extradited. Furthermore, answers the German court asked for had to come from the Hungarian judge who signed off on the extradition warrant, he said.

But Campos Sanchez-Bordona also said the German court went too far in its probe, extending beyond the factors necessary to determine the risk of abuse to the detainee, he said.

The advocate general’s opinion is not binding on the Court of Justice, which has begun its deliberations in the case.

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