Judgment in Joined Cases C – 404/15 and C – 659/15 PPU Pál Aranyosi and Robert Căldăraru, 5 April 2016

The execution of a European arrest warrant must be deferred if there is a real risk of inhuman or degrading treatment because of the conditions of detention of the person concerned in the Member State where the warrant was issued.

If the existence of that risk cannot be discounted within a reasonable period, the authority responsible for the execution of the warrant must decide whether the surrender procedure should be brought to an end

In Case C – 404/15,  a Hungarian investigating magistrate issued two European arrest warrants  with  respect to Mr Pál Aranyosi,  a Hungarian national,  so that a criminal prosecution could be brought  for two offences of forced entry and theft, allegedly committed by Mr. Aranyosi  in Hungary. In Case C – 659/15 PPU,  a Romanian court issued a  European arrest warrant  with respect to  Mr. Robert  Căldăraru  to secure the enforcement in Romania  of a prison sentence of one year and  eight months imposed for driving without a driving licence .

The two men having been located in Germany, it is the task of the  German authorities to  examine  the warrants. The Hanseatisches Oberlandesgericht in Bremen (Higher Regional Court of Bremen, Germany), which has to decide whether those warrants should be executed , found that the detention  conditions  to which Mr Aranyosi  and Mr Căldăraru  might be subject in the Hungarian and  Romanian prisons  respectively were contrary to fundamental rights, in particular  the provision of  the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European  Union  prohibiting inhuman or degrading  treatment  or punishment .

In judgments of 10  June 2014  and 10  M arch 2015 the European Court of  Human Rights held that  Romania  and Hungary  had infringed fundamental rights due to the prison  overcrowding which is  characteristic of their prisons.

The German court seeks to ascertain from the Court of Justice  whether,  in  such circumstances,  the  execution  of European arrest warrants can or must be refused  or made subject to the condition  that information  sufficient to establish that detention conditions  are compatible with fundamental  rights is  obtained from the Member Stat e where a warrant was issued .

Since  Mr Căldăraru  is currently detained in Germany,  his case has been dealt with under the  urgent preliminary ruling procedure provided by the Court’s Rules of Procedure .  Since Mr  Aranyosi  is not currently in custody,  his case was not dealt with under  that  procedure.  However, given that  the two cases have the same subject matter ,  the Court decided to join the cases for judgment .

In this  judgment ,  the Court states that the absolute prohibition on inhuman or degrading  treatment or punishment is part of the fundamental rights protected by EU law .  Accordingly, where  the authority responsible  for the  execution  of  a warrant has in its possession evidence of  a real risk  of inhuman or degrading treatment  of  persons detained in the Member State where the warrant was issued ,  that authority must assess that risk before deciding on the surrender of the individual concerned .

Where such a risk derives from the general detention conditions in the Member State  concerned ,  the identification of that risk cannot,  in itself,  lead to the execution of the warrant being refused .

It is necessary to demonstrate that there are substantial grounds for believing that the individual concerned will in fact be exposed to such a risk because of the conditions in which it is envisaged  that he/she will be detained . In order to be able to assess the existence of that risk in relation to the individual concerned, the  authority responsible  for the  execution  of the warrant must ask the issuing authority to provide, as  a matter of urgency, all the information necessary on the conditions  of detention.

If, in the light of the information provided or any other information available to it,  the authority  responsible  for the  execution  of the warrant finds that there is,  for the individual who is the subject  of the warrant,  a real risk of inhuman or degrading treatment,  the  execution  of the warrant must  be deferred until there  has been obtained additional  information  on the basis of which that  risk can be discounted . If the existence of that risk cannot be discounted within a  reasonable period,  that authority must decide  whether the surrender  procedure  should be  brought to an end.

Link:http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2016-04/cp160036en.pdf

Authors, CJEU, Court of Justice, Latif Aran

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