On 28 January 2021, the Fifth chamber of the European Court of Justice rendered its judgment in Case C-649/19 in the context of a European Arrest Warrant issued against a person that was made aware only partially of her rights during criminal proceedings in Bulgaria. In the present case, IR was arrested for Tax offences charges and was only informed of some of his rights under the criminal proceedings held against him. During the trial stage of the proceedings IR left his home address and could not be found. On 10 April 2017, a pre-trial detention measure that constituted a national arrest warrant was issued in respect of IR who did not take part in the proceedings. On 25 May 2017, a European arrest warrant was issued against IR who had not yet be found.
However, the referring court was uncertain whether the European arrest warrant issued against IR is compatible with EU law, on the ground that IR was only made aware of some of his rights under criminal proceedings. Against this background, the referring court decided to annul that arrest warrant and referred several questions to the Court of Justice. The clarifications sought mostly concern the rights conferred by Directive 2012/13, regarding the right to information in criminal proceedings in the context of a European Arrest Warrant.
The referring court submitted four questions to the Court of Justice following the preliminary ruling procedure. The Bulgarian court asks whether the rights of an accused person under Article 4 (3), Article 6(2) and Article 7(1) of Directive 2012/13 apply in the context of a European Arrest Warrant. In case of an affirmative answer, the referring court seeks to know whether Framework Decision 2002/584 allows for the amendment of the content of an EAW in relation to the rights of the person requested. If the second question is answered in the negative, the referring court asks whether a European arrest warrant issued without informing the requested person about his rights against the issuing judicial authority is compatible with Directive 2012/13, Framework Decision 2002/584 and Article 6 and 47 of the Charter, in the eventuality where the issuing judicial authority informs the accused person of his or her rights and provides her with the relevant documents after that authority becomes aware of the arrest. The referring court further asks the Court of Justice to rule on the validity of Framework Decision 2002/584 in the light of Directive 2012/13 and Articles 6 and 47 of the Charter.
Concerning the first question, the Court recalled that Article 5 of Directive 2012/13 provides expressly for the right of a person arrested for the purpose of a European Arrest Warrant to be promptly given an appropriate Letter of rights containing information of their rights in the executing member state. However, calling upon the objective of Directive 2012/13, it was deemed by the Court that Article 4, 6(2) and 7(1) would not apply in the context of the execution of the European Arrest Warrant. Indeed Article 1 of Directive 2012/13 clearly distinguishes the rights of suspects and accused persons, and the rights of persons subject to a European Arrest Warrant. When the person is effectively surrendered to the issuing member state, she acquires the status of accused person, thus enjoying the rights referred in Article 4, 6 and 7 of this Directive. However, this person would not enjoy such rights before her surrendering. The Court did not respond to the second question since its relevance was dependent on an affirmative answer to the first question
The Court further decided to answer the third and fourth question together, thus examining the validity of Framework Decision 2002/584 under Article 6 and 47 of the Charter. Calling upon its previous cases, the Court recalled that the European Arrest Warrant offers a dual protection of procedural rights and fundamental rights that must be enjoyed by the requested person. It thus offers a comprehensive system relating to effective judicial protection provided forth by EU rules, which contribute to helping a person who is subject to a European Arrest Warrant to exercise his or her rights. In the light of the protection afforded by the European Arrest Warrant system, it was considered that Framework Decision 2002/584 is valid under Article 6 and 47 of the Charter.
Case Number C-649/19
Name of the parties IR
Date of the judgement 2021-01-28
Court Fifth Chamber