On 5 April 2016, in its decision in the Aranyosi and Caldararu Cases (C-404/15 and C-659/15 PPU), the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that judges must defer executing a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) if a genuine risk of inhuman or degrading treatment arising from detention conditions in the Member State seeking extradition exits.
It is interesting to see that the Court is now doing what the European Parliament failed to achieve in 2001 for a number of reasons. The EAW was a measure that was adopted together with anti-terrorist legislation in the wake of the 9/11 attack; and it was, in short, a compromise between Commission, Council and Parliament. In the words of the then Rapporteur, Graham Watson MEP (ALDE, UK 1994-2014): " I appeal to the Council and Commission, in the spirit of the new relationship that we have between our institutions, to move rapidly to consolidate the necessary move forward in security with measures to promote freedom and justice on which the European Union will be judged."
In the 2009/2014 legislature, an attempt was made to introduce modifications to the EAW, which was spearheaded by British MEP Sarah Ludford (ALDE, UK 1999-2014) now Baroness Ludford. However, the modifications were left to fall under the remit of the present legislature. She said, in 2014 " The EAW needs to be used not only effectively but also proportionally and with guarantees that safeguards are respected and human rights are not abused in the process.”
The Court's decision recognises that Member States have the right to refuse to extradite a person where the risk of degrading or inhuman treatment is real and well founded.
The problem of the conditions of pre-trial detention in many Members States is highlighted in a recent report by Fair Trial International, which examines how it is used in practice in ten EU countries. The results of the Report are damning: pre-trial detention was found lacking in matters of procedure and substance, and reviews and alternatives were also of poor quality and quantity.
It could be said that the EU Institutions have found, on this matter, a balanced and a sensible way forward.