European arrest warrant adopted

Foto: Evropská komise

The European arrest warrant, an important instrument in the fight against organized crime and terrorism will now apply to Czech citizens as well. Late last week, the Lower House of Parliament overrode the veto of President Vaclav Klaus, opening the way for the warrant's validity in the Czech Republic.

source: European commission
The European arrest warrant will in future allow for Czech citizens suspected of involvement in serious crimes such terrorism, people trafficking, paedophilia, murder, hijacking or rape to be extradited to an EU state and tried abroad. Its aim is to prevent criminals from eluding prosecution and help in the fight against organized crime and terrorism. However in the Czech Republic it has run up against a hurdle. A large part of the opposition and indeed the country's president Vaclav Klaus claim that extraditing Czechs to a foreign country against their will is in violation of the Czech Constitution, specifically the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Ivan Langer of the opposition Civic Democrats says his party will take the issue to the Constitutional Court.

"Because of the possible problem of human rights we are going to ask the Czech Constitutional Court to tell us who is right and who is wrong."

Does that mean you are opposed to it because it is currently in violation of an article in the Czech Constitution and you would agree to have it amended or are you against Czech citizens being extradited in principle?

"I can tell you only my personal opinion. I'm against extradition of Czech citizens as such and I am against any change of the Constitution."

Although many legal experts claim that, in view of the country's membership in the EU, an EU law can be superimposed on a Czech one there is widespread agreement that it would be better to amend the Czech Constitution to take into account the EU arrest warrant. However many opposition deputies simply do not want to make that change and an amendment proposed by the governing coalition this spring failed to get enough support. As a constitutional amendment it would have needed 120 votes in the 200 member Parliament but the governing coalition has a fragile majority of 101 votes, at the best of times.

Although the Euro arrest warrant may yet sail through stormy waters, Czech deputies in the European Parliament say they are relieved the Czech Republic has finally joined 23 other EU states in adopting it. Here's how EP deputy Libor Roucek reacted to the news in Brussels:

"I think that the Czech Parliament made the right decision, because of the fight against terrorism in which activity Europe cooperates, Europe coordinates all the actions and 23 out of 25 EU member states have already ratified the EU arrest warrant. The only country that has not done that, so far, is Italy and in Italy it is in the Senate and we can expect that the Italian Parliament will ratify it too. So if it had acted otherwise, the Czech Republic would have been the only country in Europe which failed to ratify that important document."

What would you say to the argument that the Czech Republic is letting down its citizens by letting them be extradited to a foreign country against their will or to the argument that it is in violation of the Czech Constitution?

"That is not the case. Otherwise we would be hearing those same arguments in Germany, Great Britain, France and other countries. If these people are criminals or suspected terrorists I do not see why for instance a German should not be tried in the Czech Republic or vice versa. This argument doesn't hold water. And as far as the Czech Constitution is concerned - we can expect that a group of Civic Democratic Party mps or senators will send the matter to the Constitutional Court and the Court will decide. But I am convinced that the decision made by the Czech Parliament was the right one, as was the decision of all other parliaments in Europe."