Britain gives up legal sovereignty over European treaty

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Britain gives up legal sovereignty over European treaty
« on: February 13, 2014, 09:07:54 PM »
Britain gives up legal sovereignty over European treaty

Britain yesterday surrendered 1,000 years of legal sovereignty in return for a European extradition treaty.

Judges and magistrates across the continent will be given the power to demand the arrest and handover of British citizens simply by naming them as suspects.

The pact sweeps away the right of people in this country to turn to the courts here for defence against charges abroad.

Also brushed aside will be the historic principle that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and the habeas corpus protection against unjustified imprisonment.

The treaty, being rushed through as part of the war on terror, covers 32 categories ranging from fraud and rape to 'xenophobia' and ' corruption' - offences which are currently not recognised in British law.

Agreement on the European arrest warrant came as the last country standing against it - Italy - backed down. It is now certain to be approved at a weekend EU summit in Belgium.

Tony Blair and British ministers have pushed enthusiastically for the extradition deal. But human rights activists and Eurosceptics have condemned an agreement that will abolish the powers of courts in all EU countries to resist extradition demands for the 32 crimes - beyond checking that warrants have been correctly issued.

Critics point to Greece - the country that has held 12 British planespotters in jail for more than a month on questionable spying charges - as an example of the legal systems to which the Government is handing unprecedented powers over Britons. They say the loss of the ability to challenge extradition in a British court will end the over-riding principle of the court will end the over-riding principle of the presumption of innocence.

Suspects will in effect face examination by a magistrate or judge to whom they must demonstrate their innocence under the Napoleonic code favoured in much of Europe.

Another ancient right to be infringed will be habeas corpus, the right to demand the release of anyone from imprisonment unless a good reason for holding them is demonstrated in court.

Extradited Britons would be at the mercy of the painfully slow legal systems in some countries.

The euro warrant deal was sealed when its last opponent, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, backed down.

Italy had wanted the list of crimes cut to six, and was particularly opposed to including financial crimes. Mr Berlusconi's critics said this was because he feared extradition to Spain to face tax evasion charges.

Britain and most other EU countries are likely to begin operating the system in 2004, although legislation to put it into effect will have to be agreed by Parliament. The UK first pressed for a Euro extradition scheme to get 'Costa del Crime' villains back from Spain. But Spain has now agreed an extradition treaty and no euro warrant is needed.

Supporters of the agreement say it will stop suspects stretching their fight against extradition over several years, often at huge cost to taxpayers.

Opponents say the inclusion of crimes like 'swindling' could mean almost anyone involved in any transaction could find themselves-being summoned. Lawyers also see dangers in the inclusion of crimes like rape that are notoriously vulnerable to abuse by those making false accusations.

It is even conceivable that Greece could demand the extradition for 'xenophobia' of anyone who strongly criticises its legal system over cases like that of the planespotters.

Tory spokesman Timothy Kirkhope, MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, said: 'The warrant will extend to a very wide range of crimes and cut across national judicial systems in a way that will put many people in jeopardy and have inadequate safeguards.

'The planespotter case shows there are deep divisions in judicial systems across EU states. We all support action against terrorism but we are about to introduce a radical shake-up that has not been thought through.'

Stephen Jakobi of the pressure group Fair Trials Abroad said: 'One problem is that the crimes on the list are being set by politicians who can move the goalposts at any moment.

'The system will not work unless it is applied across legal systems which work in the same way and accept the same rules.'

Shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin said: 'While there is a case for a European arrest warrant in the field of terrorism, the warrant now proposed would have the dreadful effect of enabling a British citizen to be arrested for a crime which is not a crime in this country.

'It's extraordinary the Government should be sponsoring such a proposal at a time when it is not prepared to take the power to send Osama Bin Laden to the U.S. for trial if he were captured by British troops and brought to the UK.'

Former Tory minister John Redwood-said: 'It's a black day for British justice and democracy.

'We were relying on the Italians to throw out this idea. We have known for some time that we could not rely on our own Government to defend the rights of British citizens.'

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