Many countries in Europe are a part of the European Union (EU), where 28 nations have united together, tying themselves together politically and economically. To be a part of the EU, the country must adopt and agree to certain policies, essentially making themselves subsidiaries of the overarching rules and regulations put out by the EU. If an issue can be resolved internally by a nation, the EU generally stays out of it. They also allow the member states access to the privileges a union like this can grant. For example, nations in the EU (along with four others) can participate in the European Single Market. The European Arrest Warrant is another one of these privileges, used by law enforcement to promote ease of extradition for criminals on the run.

The nations in the EU, though the United Kingdom has begun its withdrawal process from the union. | Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Recently, a European Arrest Warrant was issued for Carles Puidemont, Catalonia’s deposed leader. This happened after the same Spanish judge had eight other Catalan leaders arrested when the country declared its independence from Spain.   So what exactly is a European Arrest Warrant?

The European Arrest Warrant is valid in every one of the EU’s member states, which hastens the extradition from someone with a warrant out for their arrest in another EU country. In U.S. states, jurisdiction is not nearly as strict as the borders between countries. Many of these European countries surround one another, making escape significantly easier. In the U.S. there is no need to extradite someone from Florida to Georgia in the same way you would need to extradite someone from Italy to France, even if it’s only a few miles.

Puidemont is not in Catalonia and he’s not in Madrid–he’s in Belgium and he doesn’t want to return to Spain unless he is promised a fair trail. This European Arrest Warrant has gotten his associates arrested too, as they turned themselves in to Belgian police on Sunday. Now a Belgian judge must decide if they will honor the European Arrest Warrant and extradite the Catalans.

Some interesting facts regarding the European Arrest Warrant:

  • It cannot be issued to someone only under investigation. They must be subject to criminal prosecution or are sought out for imprisonment and/or punishment that has already been determined.
  • If the crime has been committed in one country and the criminal flees to a state where that “crime” is legal, they do not have to be extradited unless it falls under a (very long) list of crimes laid out by the EU, including but not limited to rape, human trafficking, counterfeiting, forgery, fraud and terrorism.
  • The countries have different specifics in regards to whether or not they must extradite one of their own citizens for breaking the laws of another country. Generally speaking, as a part of the EU they must extradite.
  • They do not have to extradite if it is determined that surrendering that individual would result in a human rights abuse against them.
  • In some cases, the extraditing country can make a “conditional surrender” lessening sentences or allowing the return of that person after the sentence has been carried out.

Featured image: A demonstrator holds a banner that reads in Catalan: “Freedom for the Political Prisoners,” during a protest against the decision of a judge to jail ex-members of the Catalan government at the University square in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017 (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez).