Thursday, 29 January 2004

Questions (55)

Paul Nicholas Gogarty


46 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for the lack of human rights elements of police co-operation within the EU in the European arrest warrant mechanism before the Houses of Oireachtas; and the action being taken to ensure that human rights safeguards, as mandated by international human rights law, will be preserved. [2518/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

The legislation giving effect in Ireland to the EU framework decision on the European arrest warrant was enacted during the last session and the European Arrest Warrant Act came into operation on 1 January 2004.

The Act contains numerous protections for arrested persons, such as a right to legal representation and interpretation services. However, section 37 of the Act covering fundamental rights reflects the provisions in Article 1.3 and in recitals 12 and 13 of the framework decision. It sets the general grounds for consideration by the High Court of European arrest warrants and provides that a person shall not be surrendered unless there is compliance with the section. The section provides for the need to respect fundamental rights, including rights under the Constitution and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and its protocols, as well as a range of specific rights aimed at protecting the rights of certain classes of people, minorities, etc. It also includes grounds for refusal where there is a possibility of the death penalty or inhuman or degrading treatment.

Article 1.3 of the framework decision refers to Article 6 of the Treaty on European Union and provides that "the Framework Decision shall not have the effect of modifying the obligations to respect fundamental rights and fundamental legal principles as enshrined in Article 6 of the Treaty on European Union".

Recital 12 affirms that the framework decision respects the fundamental rights and observes the principles recognised by Article 6 of the Treaty on European Union. Article 6 states, inter alia, that “the Union shall respect fundamental rights, as guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms”. This recital also provides that a warrant may be refused where there are reasons to believe it was issued for reasons related to the person's race, religion, sex, etc. It adds that the framework decision does not prevent a member state from applying its constitutional rules on due process, freedom of association, freedom of the press and freedom of expression in other media.

Recital 13 states that "no person shall be removed, expelled or extradited to a State where there is a serious risk that he or she would be subjected to the death penalty, torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment". Section 11(3) of the Act gives effect to Ireland's statement that European arrest warrants would be executed only for the purposes of bringing a person to trial or for the purpose of executing a custodial sentence or detention order. Ireland made that statement when the framework decision was being adopted. It ensures that persons who are not yet convicted are surrendered to face trial rather than for investigative purposes. The European Arrest Warrant Act 2003 contains comprehensive human rights safeguards.