Lord Baker’s 488 pages cannot hide his fundamental failure on civil liberties

Lord Baker’s review into UK Extradition Law – all 488 pages of it – has been published today. A major section of the report deals with the working of the European Arrest Warrant, which Big Brother Watch held a fringe meeting on at Conservative conference.

Before the election, Dominic Grieve summed up the situation well. He said: “Our extradition laws are a mess. They’re one-sided. A Conservative government will re-write them.” Nick Clegg was in agreement on the failures of the UK/US Extradition treaty, adding: “I forced a debate on it…and warned the Government then that the treaty would lead to an abuse of people’s rights in this country.”

Nick de Bois MP, who spoke at our fringe event, yesterday outlined what he would like the review to say on the European Arrest Warrant. His view shares the concerns of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, who reported in July this year on the need for reform.

The Committee argues that the Government should “ensure that other EU Member States do not use the European Arrest Warrant for the purposes of requesting a person for investigation rather than to stand trial.”

Sadly, Lord Baker’s review does not even go this far. This failure to recognise the true scale of the European Arrest Warrant’s misuse is a bitter blow to those who have suffered injustice under the system.

While Ensuring European Arrest Warrants are only used for serious offences is a positive step forward, but the fundamental question of when they should be issued has been neglected and this is a serious failing.

Countless examples exist where the European Arrest Warrant system has failed to protect civil liberties and the Government should urgently act to curtail its use where evidence is lacking, investigations have been insufficient and where a fair trial cannot be guaranteed.

Yet Lord Baker concluded: “We have concluded that the European arrest warrant has improved the scheme of surrender between Member States of the European Union and that broadly speaking it operates satisfactorily.”

This review is simply not good enough. The Government should see it as a bare minimum of reform, and live up to its rhetoric before the election and go much further to properly protect civil liberties.