[Sinn Fein]

12th December 2001

European Arrest Warrant attacks civil rights - Ó Caoláin

Sinn Fein TD Caoimhghín Ó Caolain has expressed his opposition to the proposed European Arrest Warrant. Deputy Ó Caoláin slammed the rushing through the Dáil of the motion approving the Warrant proposal. He said:

``Because of the rushing through of this motion in an hour and the guillotining of debate I and other deputies are being prevented from speaking on this vital matter. This is a disgrace.

``I oppose this European Arrest Warrant. I think it is a scandal that we are being asked to rubber stamp in the space of an hour a measure that has huge legal, judicial, political and civil liberties implications. On those grounds alone this measure should be opposed.

``I only got sight of the proposal cited in this motion this morning. It was not even circulated to all deputies and my office had to request a copy from the Library. It is a detailed and legally complex document which was only laid before the Dáil yesterday. Yet today we are expected to nod it through without any proper scrutiny or debate.

``Any proposal which affects the liberties of citizens and their rights before the courts must be given the most careful and detailed consideration. This is certainly such a proposal as its sets aside the normal extradition procedures.

``The government has said that it has secured important safeguards during the negotiations, but again we do not have the opportunity to properly assess those safeguards. Indeed the fact that such safeguards were needed serves to emphasise the far-reaching and fundamental implications of this arrest warrant.

``This Arrest Warrant was proposed at an emergency meeting of EU Justice Ministers in Brussels on 20th September in the wake of the atrocities in the United States. But as the Irish Council for Civil Liberties pointed out the proposals had been in the pipeline since the 1999 Tempere summit and the Justice Ministers seized the opportunity to push through potentially dangerous measures. As the ICCL said: ``This is a highly regrettable evasion of the deliberative process which should always precede the introduction of such laws.''

``What is being proposed here, in effect, is the creation of an EU police force. Citizens will be subject to arrest on the request of the authorities of a foreign state and to surrender to those authorities with reduced legal protection. This very far-reaching change has been introduced very quickly in the heat of the understandable anger at the atrocities in the USA but, as so often in the past, their swift passage with minimal scrutiny will have far-reaching implications for the rights of citizens for many years to come.''

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