(CN) – The European Court of Justice ruled Wednesday that repeated bad behavior that thwarted a prisoner’s transfer to another member state is probably not a force majeure, but tasked a national court with the final decision.
Authorities in Lithuania issued a European arrest warrant for one Tomas Vilkas, who was already in custody in Ireland for attacking an American with a golf club. Vilkas was supposed to be handed over to Lithuania aboard a commercial flight on a specific date; however, the man became agitated, aggressive and refused to board the plane and – given his behavior – the pilot wouldn't let him on board either.
Two weeks later, Irish and Lithuanian authorities attempted a second handoff with identical results. Anticipating that this could go on indefinitely, Irish officials made arrangements to take Vilkas by sea to mainland Europe and then over land to Lithuania.
Ireland's high court had to approve the latest effort. But it determined that it didn't have jurisdiction to hear a third extradition request under EU law and ordered Vilkas' release.
An appeal ensued, leading the appellate court to ask the European Court of Justice whether EU law allows for repeated extradition efforts when events happen beyond the control of member states and those events are ongoing or recur.
A court adviser this past October applied the “fool me twice, shame on me” adage to the situation, writing that authorities should have taken precautions after the first time Vilkas acted out since it was foreseeable he’d misbehave again.
But in a 7-page preliminary ruling issued Wednesday, the EU high court was more forgiving. While acknowledging even the first bout of bad behavior should have been foreseeable, the court said it can’t be ruled out that Vilkas’ resistance the second time would have been avoided even with proper precautions – a point the Irish court must decide.
Furthermore, Luxembourg-based court said just because the time limits to transfer Vilkas had expired doesn’t mean he can’t be extradited.
“The mere expiry of the prescribed time limits cannot relieve the executing member state of its obligation to carry on with the procedure for executing the European arrest warrant and to surrender the requested person, and the authorities concerned must agree, for that purpose, on a new surrender date,” the court wrote.
So force majeure or not, Vilkas will end up in Lithuania – one way or another.
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