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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Enjoy your holidays, but keep EU law 2009/299/JHA in mind

Andrew Symeou, the UK citizen accused of causing the death of Jonathan Hiles while on holiday in Greece is to be extradited to the country today after losing a legal fight against extradition.

This is possible under the controversial European Arrest Warrant.

The shocking details of this story - including allegations of misconduct by the Greek police in obtaining evidence - can be found here and here. In this case, the UK could still have refused to extradite Symeo, but the Law Lords refused to hear the case. Had the UK blocked extradition, a trial in absentia would have been conducted in Greece, where, if convicted, a new request to extradite him would have been issued.

In the past, the UK would have been able to refuse this request, but not anymore. As of 26 February 2009, and the implementation of an EU Framework Decision on the “application of the principle of mutual recognition to decisions rendered in the absence of the person concerned at the trial”, member states must recognise judgements rendered in the absence of the convicted, and these apply under the terms of the European Arrest Warrant.

Some member states have still not implemented it. But, as the UK is one of the sponsors of the proposal, they haven't asked to postpone it to 2014.

Last year, we looked at the idea of trials in absentia in briefing paper, where we found that the proposal would make it much more difficult to resist extraditions to countries which have been criticised by international human rights group for their justice systems.

The rules mean you could potentially be extradited to a country where you've never even set foot, especially in the age of internet.

For instance, in 2005, Austrian artist Gerhard Haderer was convicted to a six month sentence, again in Greece, after depicting Christ as a binge-drinking friend of Jimi Hendrix, surfing naked while high on cannabis (see picture). The artist didn't even know that his book, The Life of Jesus, had been published in Greece until he received a summons to appear in court in Athens.

The judgement was rendered in absentia and in similar cases in the future Austria will lose the ability to refuse extradition of its citizens to fellow EU member states.

We're not trying to put you off your holiday in Greece. We're just trying to highlight the dangers of our own politicians sacrificing hard-fought civil rights to an EU security state.

2 comments:

Scott said...

I've mentioned this to a few people, but hardly anyone seems concerned. It's bizarre.

Anonymous said...

It's not bizzare; it's dangerous!

If you can be convicted in absentia and you cannot defend .. where are the human rights? Every where but not in EU.