On 12 February 2019, the Court of Justice (First Chamber) delivered its judgment in case C-492/18 PPU, which concerns the interpretation of the Framework Decision on the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) and of Article 6 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights (right to liberty and security).
TC had been arrested in the Netherlands upon execution of an EAW issued by UK authorities. Article 22(4) of the Dutch law on the surrender of sentenced persons (hereinafter OLW, for ‘Overleveringswet’) obliges to release the arrested person after 90 days from his or her arrest. Dutch authorities consider this obligation to be inconsistent with the EAW Framework Decision, especially considering that the final decision on the execution of an EAW, and thus on the surrender of the individual concerned, may be delayed if a request for a preliminary ruling is lodged before the Court of Justice. The referring court (the Court of Amsterdam) thus interprets Article 22(4) OLW as allowing for a suspension of the surrender proceedings when the Court of Justice is required to rule on a request for preliminary ruling, both when the request concerns that specific case and when it has been lodged by other judicial authorities but it may nonetheless be relevant for the surrender procedure before the Court of Amsterdam. For instance, the referring court suspended the proceedings concerning TC to wait for the Court of Justice’s judgment in RO.
At the same time, the referring court notes that the court of second instance, i.e. the Court of Appeal of Amsterdam, does not endorse such an interpretation of Article 22(4) OLW. However, albeit by means of a different approach, the Court of Appeal of Amsterdam determines in each case whether it is necessary to suspend the time-limits for the adoption of a decision on the execution of the EAW. The referring court notes that, in practice, the different approach of the Court of Appeal of Amsterdam has always brought about the same results as those achieved by the Court of Amsterdam. The referring court thus wonders whether, in circumstances such as those just described, keeping in custody for more than 90 days a person who is at risk of fleeing violates Article 6 of the Charter.
The Court ruled as follows:
The EAW Council Framework Decision must be interpreted as precluding a national provision, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, which lays down a general and unconditional obligation to release a requested person arrested pursuant to a European arrest warrant as soon as a period of 90 days from that person’s arrest has elapsed, where there is a very serious risk of that person absconding and that risk cannot be reduced to an acceptable level by the imposition of appropriate measures.
Article 6 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union must be interpreted as precluding national case-law which allows the requested person to be kept in detention beyond that 90-day period, on the basis of an interpretation of that national provision according to which that period is suspended when the executing judicial authority decides to refer a question to the Court of Justice of the European Union for a preliminary ruling, or to await the reply to a request for a preliminary ruling made by another executing judicial authority, or to postpone the decision on surrender on the ground that there could be, in the issuing Member State, a real risk of inhuman or degrading detention conditions, in so far as that case-law does not ensure that that national provision is interpreted in conformity with Framework Decision 2002/584 and entails variations that could result in different periods of continued detention.
Case Number C-492/18 PPU
Name of the parties TC
Date of the judgement 2019-02-12
Court Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)