EU countries should continue extraditing criminal suspects to Britain until it leaves the bloc, the union’s top court ruled Wednesday, rejecting a bid by a murder suspect to use Brexit to avoid facing justice.
A man suspected of murder, rape and arson challenged a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) issued by Britain after he was detained in Ireland, arguing that the UK’s decision to leave the EU meant it was not clear that his rights would be guaranteed.
But the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg ruled that Britain’s June 2016 vote to leave had no bearing on such warrants so long as it remained part of the EU.
“The notification by a member state of its intention to withdraw from the Union in accordance with Article 50 (of the EU treaty) does not have the effect of suspending the application of EU law in that member state,” the court said.
The “principles of mutual trust and mutual recognition” continue until Brexit day — March 29 next year, it added.
“The court concludes therefore that mere notification by a member state of its intention to withdraw from the European Union is not an ‘exceptional’ circumstance capable of justifying a refusal to execute an EAW issued by that Member State.”
The European Arrest Warrant system allows EU countries to request the extradition of suspects from other member states, with very few reasons allowed for refusal.
The suspect in the current case, identified only as “RO”, was arrested in Ireland in 2016 on the British warrant and appealed to the Irish High Court on grounds including issues related to Brexit.
The Irish court then asked the ECJ to rule whether it should refuse to surrender the suspect due to “the uncertainty as to the arrangements which will be put in place after the UK’s withdrawal.”
The ECJ said courts should only refuse an arrest warrant from a state leaving the EU if there are “substantial grounds” to believe there is a risk of the suspect being deprived of his or her rights.