European arrest warrant takes shape

BRUSSELS (Combined reports) – The European Union’s ministers of justice and the interior took a series of important steps yesterday toward forging a common front against terrorism and other serious crimes. Final decisions will be taken on December 6-7. The ministers decided on two of the most important aspects of the integrated judicial system: The European Arrest Warrant, allowing for the capture and handing over of suspects involved in serious crimes, including terrorism; and the definition of what constitutes terrorism, in order to facilitate cooperation between police and judicial officials in the member states. We have broadly reached a solution on the arrest warrant, German Secretary of State for Justice Hansjoerg Geiger told reporters. This is aimed at replacing lengthy current procedures. EU states will have to hand over a detained suspect within 60 days of receiving the arrest warrant from a fellow member state, or within 10 days if the suspect agrees to be transferred. Geiger said there would be an exceptional extension to 90 days where suspects appealed to constitutional courts or to the European Court of Human Rights. The warrant allows for the transfer of nationals of the country being asked to hand them over and will apply to a long list of crimes. Among these are membership of a criminal organization, murder, forcing people into prostitution, smuggling narcotics and weapons, sexual exploitation of minors and child pornography, legalizing the proceeds of a crime (money laundering), fraud against the European Union, racism, bribery, rape, and forging euros. The ministers agreed that the list would not include political activities by anti-globalization groups, trade unions or people exercising their constitutional right to protest. Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos said here was no constitutional problem in Greece’s extraditing one of its nationals if he or she has committed any of the crimes on the list in an EU country. Terrorist acts were defined as those described as such by the member states’ legal systems and which fulfill certain conditions, including that they be premeditated and aimed at causing serious damage to a country or international organization through frightening the population or destabilizing the civil structures of the country. Therefore, under these preconditions terrorism may be described as acts that cause serious damage to public buildings and installations, murder and kidnapping, hijacking or piracy of other means of transport, possessing weapons, causing arson, floods or other catastrophes and causing serious damage to public utilities.(Kathimerini, Reuters) US-flagged yacht with 89 migrants

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