The case for reforming the European arrest warrant: Alexander Adamescu vs. Romania

The case of Alexander Adamescu underlines why the European arrest warrant needs urgent reform, argues Mitchell Belfer.

The case for reforming the European arrest warrant: Alexander Adamescu vs. Romania | Photo credit: Fotolia

By Mitchell Belfer

27 Oct 2016

Imagine standing accused of a crime, presumed guilty and having to prove your innocence. If you cannot prove your innocence, you will be forcibly taken from your home and sent to a country that views human rights as a "theoretical luxury". The judge in your case cannot review the evidence against you - they must extradite you unless you can show beyond doubt that they should do otherwise. Picture yourself trying to get justice when your accuser is a government determined to silence you and your family. 

Now you have an idea of what it's like to be Alexander Adamescu and to face the Kafkaesque judicial nightmare of a European arrest warrant issued by one of the most corrupt countries in the EU - Romania.

Alexander Adamescu is a writer who grew up in Germany and graduated from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London. Originally born in Romania, Alexander's family owns one of the few remaining independent newspapers in the country, Romania Libera. 


However, after printing stories exposing ongoing corruption in the Romanian government, the newspaper's publisher, Dan Adamescu - Alexander's father - made some powerful enemies. As a result, he was publicly accused of corruption himself on national television by vengeful Prime Minister Victor Ponta, who had grown tired of the paper's criticism of his administration.

In a swift trial, which the NGO Fair Trials International said had, "failed to respect the presumption of innocence", Dan Adamescu was thrown in jail on trumped up bribery charges. 

Despite having not set foot in Romania for years, when Alexander criticised the Romanian government for their unjust treatment of his father, he quickly found himself accused of exactly the same crime. It took a Romanian judge a mere 20 minutes to deliberate, issue and publish an arrest warrant that was hastily sent to the UK. 

Unless he can prove the political motivation for the accusations or that his human rights would be breached on returning to Romania, Alexander's wife and three young children will be left in London to continue their fight for justice alone, while he languishes in a Bucharest jail cell awaiting an unfair trial.

What has happened to Alexander Adamescu and his family is but one example of how the European arrest warrant has become a tool for persecution by unscrupulous governments. It assumes the parity of justice between EU member states where often there is none whatsoever. 

Romania's legal system has no trial by jury, nor does it commit to the principles of innocence until proven guilty and habeas corpus. It provides little check on the arbitrary abuse of power by the Romanian state, which despite years of EU membership still finds itself manipulating the judiciary to attack its opponents in a form of "lawfare". And yet judges in other EU countries must treat warrants issued in Romania with trust and reciprocity.

EU leaders and policymakers must recognise the damage that is being done to the rule of law across Europe by an arrest warrant system that is fundamentally flawed. The European arrest warrant needs urgent reform to ensure it is not sacrificing quality of judicial decision-making for the sake of speed. 

European arrest warrants issued in countries such as Romania, where countless reports have demonstrated their current inability to deliver a fair trial, must face additional levels of scrutiny until they dramatically improve their standards of justice. 

Judges must be able to review the evidence for the charges levelled against suspects and where necessary, juries should be employed to deliver their verdict on the case. 

Until EU officials put in these safeguards, honourable judges across Europe will be forced to put more families like the Adamescus through harrowing torment, and faith in EU law will continue to be undermined.

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