On the 28th February 2017, CfL took their campaign against the European Arrest Warrant to the Houses of Parliament, in a session held in the Commons Committee rooms with Alexander Adamescu himself as a speaker, alongside Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, Stephen Woolfe MEP and Professor Tim Evans.
Jacob Rees-Mogg began proceedings with his objections to the European Arrest Warrant in principle. Some nations in the European Union have high standards of Justice, but some have systems which are in no way equal to our own. The EAW is therefore based on a false premise, because there is no parity of justice across Europe; some have standards that the EU itself recognises are not as high as our own. When Croatia joined the EU, for example, the Commission pointed out that the efforts to remove corruption in the police force had not been successful.
Mr Rees-Mogg made the powerful point that this potentially corrupt police force was then able to issue an arrest warrant for any of us, and there would be no right to challenge this request based on production of evidence, no examination of whether the process being used against the individual was valid.
We have a different justice system from most of the European Union, it was explained. History has granted us two fundamental principles that they do not necessarily have – Habeas Corpus and the Presumption of Innocence. A British citizen can be arrested in the UK, and removed to a foreign nation, effectively removing fundamental rights. Once the subject has left UK jurisdiction there is no ability to issue a writ of Habeas Corpus, it is simply too late. Treatment abroad may also not be equal to that expected in the UK. Trial by jury is not universal across the EU states.
Mr Rees-Mogg went on to defend the ideal of extradition by treaty, but only under the condition that it enshrined the ability of UK authorities to legitimise the transfer of power taking place, through the examination of evidence and the right to assess the process in the requesting nation. It is important to co-operate on Law and Order, but that there must be similar standards in the applicant nation, acceptance that reasonable punishments are applied by that nation and that some basis of evidence is shown to be held against the subject.
Although we have protection in UK law, they are dubious effectiveness because they are subject to the European Courts of Justice. Jacob Rees-Mogg then made the case that by leaving the EU and therefore the reach of the ECJ, it would allow the domestic law to be supreme, and more effectively remove the presumption of ECJ primacy even over European Court of Human Rights (now enshrined in UK law via the Human Rights Act). This will allow the UK to create a workable system of extradition with our European neighbours that has the proper safeguards.
Lastly, Mr Rees -Mogg chronicled the removal of trial by ordeal by the fourth Lateran Council in 1215 – an important date in English history. In England, this was replaced by the early form of trial by jury, but in continental Europe it was to give way to trial by confession. This historical parting gave rise to a system of law which is very powerful to protect the innocent, and we should give up parts of this very cautiously. Especially we should be very wary about giving up our citizens on the say of a judge or policeman whose credentials we cannot properly know.
Outlining his opinion of the Government’s position, Mr Rees Mogg thought it likely that Criminal Justice co-operation was one of the things we had to offer the EU in return for a good economic settlement, but that the PM’s insistence that we would be outside the ECJ would grant us proper protection of liberty. Also, it would insert the political body back into the process, as it had with the case of Gary McKinnon and the USA’s request for extradition.
The second speaker, Mr Stephen Woolfe MEP, gave a speech on the practical impacts of the EAW from his experience as both a Lawyer and as a member of the European Parliament. He began though with some comments on his belief in the rule of law, and some historical context.
Just a short distance from where we sat, in Grace Church Street in 1670, a man was arrested for preaching despite a government order that he desist and that his church be closed. This Quaker was then put in front of a judge at the Old Bailey the following day, and a writ of Habeas Corpus secured his release. This man was William Penn, who went on to found Pennsylvania. The government had made no proper charge against him, in accordance with the rule of law a jury of his peers restored his liberty.
Mr Woolfe went on to compare this to the operation of the EAW. The EAW was designed, and was sold to the British people as an essential tool in the fight against serious organised crime and terrorism. However, its successes in this field such as in the case of Osman Hussain, were few in comparison to its overall use. It had been captured for inappropriate and disproportionate use.
EAW procedures had been carried out against people accused of petty offences. Possession of 0.45 grams of Cannabis. Theft of two car tyres. Romania issued an EAW over the theft of 10 chickens, Poland over the theft of a mobile phone. 20 litres of petrol and the theft of a piglet were also cases leading to EAW requests. Mr Woolfe questioned the morality of using such draconian measures for such petty offences.
But there had been more serious cases of abuse, with the case of Alexander Adamescu being a particularly egregious example. The process itself is a tick box exercise, Mr Woolfe explained. 24 boxes on a piece of paper, and so long as those boxes are ticked correctly there is no relief from extradition, “I don’t regard that as justice”.
Mr Woolfe highlighted Andrew Symeou’s case, a Londoner in whose case all those involved were forced to sign a document in Greek despite being English speakers, purporting that he was the guilty party in a murder. Two years later, after incarceration in a Greek jail, he was released, a case of mistaken identity. He also drew attention to the politically motivated case of Ashya King, whose parents were subject to an EAW for the crime of taking him abroad for cancer treatment.
The EU’s own statistics on the EAW are revealing. Since 2004, there have been 75,280 EAW requests made. In 2004 there were only 1,800, but last year there were 14,299. These were not all serious criminals or terrorists. This is mass intimidation of people who have gone from country to country on as little as the allegation of the theft of a piglet, Mr Woolfe claimed.
What links all these cases, he argued, is that the EAW was purely about harmonising EU law, not upholding judicial fairness. “It was about administrative simplicity, not respect for the right of liberty, the presumption of innocence, open justice, fair chance to present a defence. It was about convenience for the EU project’s great and good, not for the principle of good courts or a good legal system. The EAW goes to the heart of the EU project”.
He concluded by stating that “If we do not leave the EAW, the European Courts of Justice…then we have not left the European Union at all.”
Our third speaker of the evening was Alexander Adamescu himself. He is the subject of an EAW, and his next court appearance is scheduled for April. He began by setting out some of the details in his own case for the audience.
Alexander is a German citizen, who has been living in London since 2012 with his partner and two children. He was arrested on June 14th 2016 as he was about to speak at an event with journalist Peter Oborne at the Frontline Club.
The Story he told us, started with his father, who returned to his native Romania in the 1990’s and invested in an opposition newspaper, supporting democracy and a break with the old communist past. This made him unpopular with those in power. Victor Ponta, the Romanian Prime Minister, accused him of corruption in the media, and said that he expected to hear more about this from the state prosecutor’s office. Dan Adamesu was arrested on live TV, by armed, masked, anti terror police. He was hauled in front of a judge, and refused bail because he was German, wealthy, and because granting bail would lead to a negative public reaction. Details of his indictment were leaked to the press and published.
Mr Adamescu explained that his father was convicted effectively on the first day of his trial as the judge talked about his ‘criminal acts’ as if they were fact, and he was denied bail again because he “continued to deny the accusations against him”. His conviction followed a swift and short trial, of bribery amounting to €20,000. The evidence was the testimony of just one person, who said they made payments which were ordered by Dan Adamescu. Not one piece of solid evidence, not even from the hours of wiretaps that the prosecutors had access to, was presented.
Dan Adamescu was 68 years old at his arrest, was denied medical treatment during his pre trial detention, then denied an operation for a year and a half which left him in a wheelchair. He collapsed in prison in September 2016 and was hospitalised, then denied parole in December due to having spent so much time in hospital during his sentence. He collapsed in prison again and died in January 2017.
Alexander explained that as son and heir to the businesses of his father, he has now become the target of the Romanian state. In March 2016, the chief prosecutor made a live TV appearance to make the same false allegations against Alexander as were made of his father, on exactly the same evidence.
A judge was then chosen by an incorrect method, it was explained, to produce an EAW. Half an hour notice was given to appear in court, by way of a summons posted on the door of the courtroom itself, that document itself predated to hide the shortness of notice. After the hearing, it took the judge exactly 20 minutes to read 37 arch lever files, the pleadings of the parties, and write his arrest instructions to the police.
Mr Adamescu summed up his case as being one of no evidence, one brought against his father not himself, and under a warrant illegal under even Romanian law.
The UK institutions, he concluded, were each in their small way, implementing an arrest that would never be allowed in this country under UK law.
Under questioning from the audience, Mr Adamescu revealed that he had received no help from his local MP, Tulip Saddiq. In fact, to even get an audience with his MP he had needed to threaten to effectively ‘squat’ in the House of Commons. He also alleges that and his family have also been under surveillance in the UK by Romanian state agencies, and that a kidnap attempt was made on his partner.
Western governments had been unwilling to speak out on the issue as Romania was both an EU and NATO ally, but in fact had become an extension of the Russian style of state, with deep mafia collusion in government and the institutions of state.
The final speaker was Professor Tim Evans, a professor of Business and Political Economy at Middlesex University.
At the age of only 26, he entered Bratislava as the head of the Prime Minister’s policy unit. He was at that time the most senior British advisor in the old Soviet Bloc states. With UK help, a lot of progress was made to transform old soviet states into more democratic and open modes of government and justice, to institute rights of property and in the person, to enable the enjoyment of the kind of Civil Liberties enjoyed here in the UK.
The Professor told us of a conversation he had in London with a leading human rights lawyer. There are Interpol red warrants coming through nations such as Bulgaria, suspected to be at the bequest of corrupt elements of the Russian state. David Clark of the Henry Jackson Society reported recently that Romania has a ‘mutant secret state’, not fully reformed from the days of communism. The anti corruption drive has become itself corrupt.
He went on to tell the story of Stuart Ramsey, chief correspondent of Sky News, highlighted by Stephen Pollard in the Spectator. The professor poses the question: “What if we are starting to enter a world in Europe where states, secret services, are starting to vie for elbow room and are starting to indulge in….21st Century Lawfare?”
Sky News have said little on the issue. Stuart Ramsey has not been available for comment. Why? Fear perhaps. And what is the position of the British Home Office? We have a PM, he says, that has respect for the institutions of British Law and its traditions, but believes that it should be viewed in equivalence and reciprocity with those other systems around the EU. This is a fact which leaves professor Evans “Disturbed”.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia have made extraordinary changes, there is genuinely the rule of law there, and in many other parts of central and Eastern Europe. “But there are corners where the elbow room is being tested” he tells us, “And it is time for the Prime Minister, friends in Brussels and in Washington, to wake up”.
“It seems ludicrous to me, some years after the collapse of the soviet bloc, that a British Judge in a British Court, cannot actually look at the evidence as to whether someone like Mr Adamescu should be [extradited] or not. It is an extraordinary twist and turn of the gimlet into British common law.”
He concluded that the EAW is losing its polish, and it is imploding from within.
Responding to a final question, Professor Tim Evans made the serious claim that people who represent the Judiciary Romania, know that there are placement from the State Security Services inside the judicial system, and that there can be consequences for reaching the wrong verdict.
And with this final answer, the evening concluded with great thanks to the guest speakers.
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty