‘Appalling, Inhuman, Degrading’: The Horrors of European Arrest Warrants Exposed


EAWs are issued by a judge or prosecutor in a Member State, to seek the arrest and surrender of a person present in another. It may be issued for a person accused of a serious crime, such as murder, terrorism, or human trafficking, or sentenced to a custodial sentence of at least three years for one of these crimes, or an individual accused of an offence for which the maximum penalty is an at least one-year-long prison sentence, or sentenced to a prison term of at least four months, if the offence exists in both countries.

The European Commission has advised Member States that an assessment of the “proportionality” of using an EAW must be conducted before issuing it, to ensure the EAW is truly necessary and there aren’t other, less harmful legal remedies that could be employed instead. However, once issued, there are very limited grounds on which any country receiving an EAW may refuse to execute it.

The EU makes much of the scheme’s numerous successes in bringing criminals to justice — several terrorists, killers, rapists and robbers, among others, have been caught after taking flight from the states in which they perpetrated their crimes. In one particularly impressive case, a gang of armed robbers were extradited back to Italy from six separate countries.

However, even before its institution, concerns were expressed in many quarters about its ramifications — namely, the potential for abuse, disproportionate allocation,…

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