Fair Trials International takes on the European Justice Commissioner over the EAW.
Punishment without the requirement of evidence is a bad idea. There is no need to validate that statement: it's a given. Alongside the right to a fair trial and freedom from arbitrary detention, the need for evidence was a fundamental pillar of all justice worthy of the name for three hundred years. That was, until the European Arrest Warrant - pioneered by Liberal Democrat MEP for the Southwest Sir Graham Watson - turned the clock back.
The arrest warrant - valid throughout all twenty-seven EU member states, including the UK - requires a member state in receipt of one to arrest a suspect and extradite them to the state that send it. However, it does not require the presentation of evidence, nor does it particularly guarantee a fair trial, or even any trial at all. There have been instances where individuals summoned for police questioning have been denied bail, and go on to spend months - or even years - in extremely harsh conditions whilst they await trial. Many of them are later acquitted, or are convicted for minor infractions.
The lack of justice in EAW proceedings has been highlighted by a number of NGOs, human rights groups, and supra-national institutions, such as Fair Trials International and the United Nations. Now, due to the experiences of a 40-year-old secretary, it may finally become public knowledge in the UK. In 1996, Tracey Molamphy - who is suing the Portuguese authorities - was on holiday in the country with her then-boyfriend. The ordeal began when he attempted to convert one hundred and twenty pounds sterling into escudo. The notes were suspected by authorities of being counterfeit, and the couple were arrested and held for twenty-four hours before they were allowed to board the next plane back to England. Ms. Molaphy assumed that that was to be the end of it: but, twelve years later, she was detained at Munich airport by German authorities, and strip-searched. The Portuguese authorities had charged her with being an accessory to fraud, a crime which carries a maximum penalty of five year's imprisonment.
She spent two weeks in a German prison: even her boyfriend saying that it was he who ought to be in custody, not her, could not save her. She had to spend twenty thousand pounds of their savings before the case was finally dropped. She was released. Many others are not so fortunate: one thousand UK citizens faced the travesty of justice that is the EAW last year alone. As the case of Ms. Molamphy illustrates, any person can be sent from one country or another without charge or evidence, and, upon arrival, they are denied almost all of their key principles of open and fair justice. Don't even think about writing to your MP: it is a travesty that UK courts are powerless to stop. Only through the abolition of the EAW or our withdrawal from the European Union can we protect British citizens from such horrific abuses.
I would add that while contacting Sir Graham Watson himself will not help matters - the existence of the EAW is beyond electoral pressure - but it does help to relieve stress. If you could spare a minute of your time to let him know of your reservations - particularly if you live in the southwest - then please do so. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and, if you want to spend your money on a worthwhile cause, you can also call his Brussels office on 003222847626.