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On 17 March 2021, the First Chamber rendered a decision in the case C-488/19 following a preliminary ruling procedure, regarding the execution of a European Arrest Warrant in the context where the acts that served as a basis for its adoption occurred in a third state. In this case, JR a Lithuanian national was arrested in Norway and charged under the unlawful delivery of very large quantity of narcotic substances charge which he had undertaken to supply from Lithuania in return for money. The judgement became final in Norway, whereas in Lithuania, on the 18 June 2015 the District Court of Jurbarkas recognized the sentence by virtue of the Bilateral Agreement of 5 April 2011, and on 7 April 2016, JR was surrendered to Lithuanian authorities. After releasing JR on parole and being accompanied by intensive supervision measures, he nevertheless absconded and went to Ireland. On 24 May 2018 a European Arrest Warrant was issued with a view to his surrender. He was arrested in Ireland and sentenced for offences of possession of narcotic drugs. At the same time, the procedure for the execution of the EAW was implemented but JR contested the surrendering to Lithuanian authorities. He contested it on the basis that, firstly, only Norway could ask his extradition and, second, that since the acts within the EAW have happened outside Lithuania, Ireland must refuse to execute the warrant. Thus the High Court (Ireland) issued a preliminary ruling on such issues, asking the Court whether Framework decision 2002/584 applies where the requested person is convicted and sentenced in a third state but by virtue of bilateral agreement between this state and the issuing state while the judgement is enforced and recognized in this latter; and whether the non-execution of the EAW apply in the context of an offence committed in a third state but where the preparatory acts took place in the issuing State.

Regarding the first question, the Court firsthand recalled that the essence of the EAW must contain evidence of an enforceable judgement and as enshrined in the case-law of the Court, it must be a separate of from the decision issuing the EAW. The court thus continued on establishing that an act of recognition of enforcement of judicial decision constitutes a judicial decision for the purpose of Framework Decision 2002/584 where they have been adopted by a judicial authority for the purpose of executing a custodial sentence, thus qualifying it as “enforceable judgement” or an “enforceable decision”. Nevertheless, the particularities of such judgement being taken by a third state court, must also give extra guarantees to the Member state recognizing and enforcing the Judgement as to the respect under which such decision was taken, specially considering Article 47 and 48 of the Charter. Thus, for the Court, the EAW can be based upon a judicial decision ordering the execution of a sentence imposed by a Court of a third state pursuant to a bilateral agreement, providing that the custodial sentence lasts four months at least and that the procedure of adoption complied with the Fundamental rights of the Charter.

On the second question, the Court had to take into consideration the fact that the preparatory acts took place in the issuing state while the actual offence occurred in a third state. The Court recalled the grounds for non-execution of the EAW as provided under Article 4(7)(b) of the Framework Decision 2002/584 under which the surrender is to be refused if the act constituting the offence was not committed in the issuing member state or if the act does not constitute an offence under Irish law. The Court focused on the first criterion, lying at the core of the facts of this case, and stated that to refuse the surrender of a requested person, where the courts of the Member State agreed to enforce the judgement of a third state where the acts occurred in this state, would not only constitute a delay in the execution of the sentence but could also lead to the impunity of the requested person and could also undermine the functioning of the judicial cooperation under EU Law. However, the Court did not consider the fact that the preparatory acts took place in the territory of the Member States. Thus, giving priority to the Criminal territorial jurisdiction, the Court assessed that the execution of the EAW in the case where the acts occurred in the territory of a third state must be resolved by considering the third State criminal jurisdiction and not the one of the Member State.

Case Number C-488/19

Name of the parties JR

Date of the judgement 2021-03-17

Court First Chamber