Czech senate approves adoption of European arrest warrant

30-07-2004

The Czech Senate on Thursday approved the adoption of the European arrest warrant, introduced in some EU states for the first time last year. However, the decision to use the EAW, as it's known in short, came only after several months of heated debate. Some politicians say the EAW takes away a country's right to protect its citizens. Dita Asiedu, has been following the discussions.

Well, the EAW is designed to help tackle the problems of cross-border crime within the European Union. With the free and less restricted movement of persons across borders it is easier for a person to commit a crime in one country and then flee to another to escape punishment. The EAW would also help in the fight against terrorism and organised crime. Without it, it can take 18 months for one country to surrender a suspect to another, to extradite the suspect to the state that issued the arrest warrant. With the EAW, that time would be reduced to about three months, meaning criminals would be prosecuted faster.

So, if a Czech citizen is suspected of a crime in Germany, for example, the Germans can ask for him to be surrendered across the border to face trial — and sentencing, if found guilty...

Yes. Although the Czech citizen will have the right to serve his sentence at home, in the Czech Republic.

But while many say it's a good way to fight crime, both houses of Parliament discussed it thoroughly before they approved the EAW. Some are obviously sceptical...

That's true. The main argument has been that a European arrest warrant forces countries to give up some of their sovereignty. Without it, surrendering a citizen to another country involves a political and administrative phase. This would be replaced by a judicial mechanism. The request would be made from the judicial authority of one country to that of another, which would have to accept it. This may make the procedure faster and simpler but requires EU states to amend their laws. So, this was the bone of contention, here in the Czech Republic as some wanted to amend constitutional law.

The ruling coalition initially planned to put the EAW into force through the constitutional Czech Charter of Rights and Liberties but that idea was swept off the table in the lower house this Spring. The European arrest warrant is now to be supported in amendments to the Czech Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure.

You said earlier that a country would have to surrender its nationals under the EAW. Does that involve all kinds of crimes?

No, not all; just the more serious ones, although that list is quite long. They include terrorism, human trafficking, the sexual abuse of children, corruption, the trade in weapons and drugs, rape, hijacking, blackmail, counterfeiting currencies, racist acts, and of course murder.

Although it is almost certain the EAW will come into force in the Czech Republic, the bill still needs to be signed by the President. Czech President Vaclav Klaus was one of the politicians against the EAW when he was still chairman of the opposition Civic Democrats.

30-07-2004