Ireland should stop obstructing British extradition requests on the grounds that the UK is leaving the EU, the Court of Justice of the EU has ruled. In a preliminary ruling published today, the court said that refusal to execute a European arrest warrant (EAW) is justified only in exceptional circumstances - which must be interpreted strictly. ’Mere notification by a member state of its intention to withdraw from the European Union is not an “exceptional” circumstance capable of justifying a refusal to execute an EAW issued by that member state,’ the court states

The case arose over warrants for the extradition of a person identified as RO to face charges of murder, arson and rape. RO, who has been in custody since 2016, objected to his surrender to the UK on the basis that following Brexit he would no longer enjoy rights applying to EU nationals. About 20 other suspects are understood to be fighting EAWs in Ireland on similar grounds. 

The matter was referred to Luxembourg by the Irish Minister for Justice and Equality who sought answers to questions about the criteria for deciding whether the execution of an EAW be prohibited or delayed. 

In its decision, the court says that refusing to execute an EAW would ’constitute a unilateral suspension of the provisions of the [EAW] Framework Decision’. It emphasises that the UK remains a party to the European Convention on Human Rights and that continuing participation in the convention is not linked to EU membership. While the extradition decision is a matter for Ireland, it should refuse to execute the warrant only if there is concrete evidence that the UK will fail to apply the substantive content of rights arising from the EAW framework. ’In the view of the court, such evidence does not appear to exist.’