The Human Rights Monitoring Institute has concluded a study on the use of the European Arrest Warrant in Lithuania. The EAW is a simplified system for surrender of persons suspected or convicted of criminal offences between EU Member States, intended to prevent the EU’s open borders from being exploited by those seeking to evade justice.
Lithuania has been employing this measure for over a decade now. Some problems in the EAW’s practical application emerged at the outset of its use, first and foremost – unproportional use of EAWs to punish petty crime, while employing unjustified resources to accomplish this. Despite this, no significant research on the practical use of EAWs in Lithuania has been conducted. Therefore the Human Rights Monitoring Institute aims to fill this gap with this study, and look at the problems as well as the good practices in using the EAW.
The collected data show that currently higher standards of proportionality are adhered to, when issuing EAWs, when compared to those used initially, when the EAW system was adopted. Also, instances where surrendered persons are unjustifiably required to cover their transportation costs happen less frequently. However, cases of unproportional use of EAWS still happen: for small criminal offences, in insufficiently prepared cases or even cases clearly lacking evidence. This leads to persons spending up to several months in pre-trial detention, and then receiving no custodial sentence or being acquitted by the court.
Another serious issue is the detention conditions in Lithuania. 2 out of Lithuania’s 3 adult remand prisons, in which persons surrendered under EAWs are detained, are routinely found in violation of human rights. Several EU Member States have already refused surrendering people to Lithuania because of detention-related threat to human rights. To avoid this problem Lithuania has issued assurances in some cases, to hold detainees in Kaunas remand prison, which has the best conditions.
Despite this, there are examples of good practice: in one of the cases observed in the course of research, the defence and the prosecution came to an arrangement, and a person, previously surrendered under an EAW, was allowed to return to his life and work abroad, while dutifully returning for court hearings.
The full research findings are available in the report “Beyond Surrender: the practice of the European Arrest Warrant in Lithuania”.
Co-funded by the Justice Programme of the European Union.