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European Arrest Warrant

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The European Arrest Warrant (EAW) replaces lengthy extradition procedures between EU Member States by a simplified judicial procedure of surrender for the purpose of prosecuting or executing a custodial sentence or detention order. An EAW issued by Member State judicial authorities is valid for the entire territory of the European Union.


What is the European Arrest Warrant?

The European Arrest Warrant is a request by a judicial authority in one of the Member States of the EU to arrest a person in another Member State and to surrender that person to the former state for the purpose of prosecuting or executing a custodial sentence or detention order. The mechanism is based on the principle of mutual recognition of judicial decisions. It presupposes direct contacts between judicial authorities.

The EAW ensures a good balance between efficiency and strict guarantees that the arrested person's fundamental rights are respected. Member States and national courts have to respect the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. Anyone arrested under an EAW may have a lawyer, and if necessary an interpreter, as provided by the law of the country where he or she has been arrested.

The EAW is based on an agreement between the Member States of the EU, a so called Link opens in new windowFramework Decision on the European Arrest Warrant.

The Member States have also developed guidelines for the operation of the EAW system in the form of the Link opens in new window"European handbook on how to issue a European arrest warrant".

What is new compared to traditional extradition procedures?

The European Arrest Warrant introduces six innovative elements compared to traditional extradition procedures:

  1. Strict time limits: The state in which the person is arrested has to return him/her to the state where the EAW was issued within a maximum period of 90 days of the arrest. If the person gives his/her consent to the surrender, the decision shall be taken within 10 days.
  2. Simpler procedures: For 32 categories of serious offences, the dual criminality principle - which means that the behaviour for which surrender is requested is a criminal offence in both the requesting state and the country in which the wanted person is arrested - is abolished. Provided that the offence is serious enough and punished by at least three years' imprisonment in the Member State that has issued the warrant, a European Arrest Warrant issued in respect of the above offences has to be executed irrespective of whether or not the definition of the offence is the same in both states.
  3. No political involvement: The EAW procedure abolished the political stage of extradition. This means that the decision on whether or not to surrender a person on the basis of an EAW is exclusively a judicial process.
  4. Surrender of nationals: As a matter of principle, EU countries can no longer refuse to surrender their own nationals, unless they take over the prosecution case, or the execution of the prison sentence against the wanted person. The EAW is based on the principle that EU citizens shall be responsible for their acts before national courts across the EU.
  5. Guarantees: Surrender of a person may be subject to three types of guarantees to be given by the state that issued the warrant:
    a.     If an EAW is based on a judgment that was handed down in the absence of the wanted person, surrender may be granted under the condition that the person has a right to apply for retrial in the country requiring his or her surrender.
    b.     If the EAW for which a person is arrested was issued for a crime for which a life sentence may be applied, surrender may be granted under the condition that the accused person will after a certain period of time have the right to ask for review of that sentence.
    c.     If the request concerns prosecution of a national or a habitual resident of the state in which the person was arrested, surrender may be granted under the condition that the person will be returned for the execution when a custodial sentence is passed.
  6. Grounds for refusal: Surrender of the arrested person can be refused on three mandatory and seven optional grounds. The mandatory grounds relate to "Ne bis in idem" (no surrender if the person has already served a sentence for the same offence), minors (no surrender If a person has not reached the age of criminal responsibility in the country of arrest) and amnesty (no surrender if the state in which the person was arrested could have prosecuted the person and the offence is covered by amnesty in that state). Optional grounds for refusal are in principle at the discretion of the judicial authorities; for example surrender can be refused if part of the criminal acts for which the EAW was issued were committed in the state where the person is arrested and that state will prosecute those acts.

Statistical data

The EAW is operational throughout all 28 Member States and evaluations show that the instrument is working well. While data has not been made available from all Member States, the (rounded off) figures in the table below indicate how widely used the EAW is.


2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

Issued

6 900

6 750

11 000

14 200

15 800

13 900

9 800

10 450

Traced and/or arrested

1 770

2 040

4200

4 500

6 150

6 460

6 490

5  840

Surrendered

1 530

1 890

3 400

3 630

5 580

5 370

5 230

4  480


In a majority of Member States surrender with consent takes place within 14-16 days and without consent the process takes less than two months. Around 50% of surrenders take place with the consent of the wanted person.


This page is maintained by the European Commission. The information on this page does not necessarily reflect the official position of the European Commission. The Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice with regard to copyright rules for European pages.

Last update: 25/02/2014