(Brussels 26 February) On the eve of tomorrow’s meeting of EU Justice and Home Affairs ministers in Brussels, Amnesty International calls on the EU not to agree to anything in the proposed EU/USA Cooperation Agreement in Criminal Matters and on Extradition that does not explicitly prohibit the imposition of the death penalty in relation to anyone extradited from the European Union to the United States.
With tomorrow’s meeting of JHA ministers due to discuss the agreement, Amnesty International is concerned that pressure on EU Member States to compromise on the issue of the death penalty might lead to watered-down language.
The human rights organisation also expressed concern about the secrecy surrounding the proposals currently being discussed by EU ministers. Even the mandate for negotiations has never been made public.
However, the EU is on record as stating that in the context of the negotiations, “the Union will make any agreement on extradition conditional on the provision of guarantees on the non-imposition of capital punishment sentences“. (JHA Council Conclusions 25-26 April 2002). Amnesty urges the EU to continue to adhere to this principle.
Amnesty International recalls that the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU states that “no-one may be removed, expelled or extradited to a state where there is a serious risk that he or she would be subjected to the death penalty, torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 19.2).
The EU must ensure that any cooperation with the US in the fight against criminality includes express safeguards:
Prohibiting EU Member States from surrendering individuals to a country where they will be at risk of suffering serious human rights violations, such as:
- the death penalty;
- being brought to justice in trials which do not uphold internationally recognised rights of fair trial;
- torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
- becoming prisoners of conscience.
Ensuring the protection of refugees and asylum-seekers extradited to the US. This includes those who have been recognised as refugees in one of the Member States, as well as asylum-seekers whose application is still under consideration in one of the Member States, including all stages of appeal.
In the search for justice for the atrocities of 11 September, the United States continues to violate its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law standards, including its duties to uphold standards of fair trial and to protect against arbitrary detention. Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the US government to end the legal “black hole” into which it has thrown hundreds of detainees. (See: United States of America: Beyond the law available on link at end of page). There are currently more than 600 detainees of around 40 nationalities being held in Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere with no access to the courts, lawyers or relatives; the prospect of indefinite detention in small cells for up to 24 hours a day; as well as the possibility of trials by executive military commissions with the power to hand down death sentences and no right of appeal.
For further comment/background and interviews:
Amnesty International EU Office (Brussels):