Irish court could deny extradition to Poland due to doubts over rule of law

NICOLAS BOUVY

(FILE) A file picture dated 25 June 2014 of the European Court of Justice's (ECJ) entrance in Luxembourg.

Irish court could deny extradition to Poland due to doubts over rule of law


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Ireland may be forced to refuse the extradition of a Polish national on the grounds that the country no longer guarantees a fair trial.

The European Court of Justice issued an opinion on Thursday that will postpone the extradition from Ireland of a Polish nation. Artur Celmer is a 31-year old suspected Polish drug trafficker who is contesting his extradition to Poland, arguing that he will not have access to a fair trial.

The case in question dates to 2007 drug offences, although the suspect was detained via the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) in May 2017.

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) has undermined cross border justice cooperation because of a 2015 overhaul of the judicial system. Irish justice is now forced to consider whether Warsaw has an adequate rule of law regime, as the detainee is contesting his extradition.

His lawyer argued that the normal trust underpinning the EAW should no longer be taken for granted and the Irish High Court tribunal referred the case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg.

The ECJ’s advocate general opined on Thursday that Irish justice may delay the extradition if it considers that the lack of independence means Mr Celmer will not get a fair trial. In sum, the case now rests with Irish courts. If the Irish court determines that the system of justice in Poland presents deficiencies, the extradition request may be delayed or denied.

Warsaw had made some concessions in the context of the European Commission’s rule of law review; theoretically, if Poland is found to have a deficient rule of law regime it may lose voting rights in the European Council. However, such a decision would require unanimity.

The rule of law controversy may also affect the allocation of structural funds. The European Commission proposes to change the mechanism for the allocation of structural funds to include governance criteria. These would go beyond socioeconomic criteria to include rule of law and asylum policy.

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