Misc 25/02/2021

Supreme Court proposes that the CJEU clarify whether Belgium can deny the extradition of exiles

Pablo Llarena gives parties three days take a position on this possibility thought for future euro-orders against Puigdemont, Comín and Ponsatí

3 min
The Supreme Court judge who instructed the case against the Process, Pablo Llarena.

BarcelonaNeither the German courts, nor the Scottish or Belgian courts have so far accepted the arguments of the Supreme Court to extradite the exiles of the Procés. The last to do so was the Belgian Court of Appeal, the second judicial instance, which in January again denied the extradition of the ex Catalan minister of Culture Lluís Puig. Now, the investigating magistrate, Pablo Llarena, intends to put a stop to it by raising the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) with a preliminary ruling to clarify the limits that state courts have to reject extraditions. The refusal to extradite Puig is firm because the Belgian prosecutor's office renounced to file an appeal, so Llarena's intention is that the CJEU sets the basis for the resolution of the next Euro-orders, which are already being prepared for when Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí lose immunity in the European Parliament.

Llarena has giventhe Prosecutor's Office, Vox and the defense of the exiles three days to take a position on this proposal, unprecedented in the cause of the Independence bid. The Supreme Court had so far relied on the Euro-orders and international arrest warrants in the case of Switzerland (although right now there is none against either Marta Rovira or Anna Gabriel) to achieve extraditions, but the judicial defeats have been accumulating and in more than three years the European route has proved sterile. The option of submitting a preliminary ruling to the CJEU had always been on the cards, although Llarena had never decided to go ahead with it. Among others, because a position of the European justice that endorses the power to decide of the courts of each state would mean Spain would not be able to criticise court decision every time extradition was denied.

Sources of the defence of the exiles consider that this will end up being proved a "mistake" on the Supreme Court's behalf, because they claim that the jurisprudence of the CJEU itself has already endorsed on several occasions the competence of the national courts to not automatically extradite people claimed between European states. Even so, it is true that recently a sentence of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) condemned Belgium for refusing the extradition of the ETA member Natividad Jáuregui and the Audiencia Nacional reissued a European arrest warrant against her that was finally executed last November, informs Júlia Manresa Nogueras.

The purpose of Llarena's consultation is therefore "to be able to establish stable criteria that lead the decision to maintain, withdraw or issue new European arrest warrants against all or any of the defendants". Everything suggests that Puigdemont, Ponsatí and Comín will lose immunity in two weeks and it will be then that a new race for extradition will begin. At the moment, Llarena has not clarified whether, in the event that he ends up presenting the preliminary question, he will wait to know the position of the CJEU before reissuing the Euro-orders.

Arrest warrants

The case of Lluís Puig is the one that has taken the longest to process. It has reached the second instance - it has been rejected twice by the Belgian courts - when in the rest of the Euro-orders the Supreme Court had ended up backing down after the initial rejection of the judicial instances. In the order signed by Llarena, he recalls that the interpretation that ends up being made by the CJEU "not only affects the decisions that have to be taken in the future" but conditions the existence of the detention measures issued by the Spanish authorities "with respect to freedom of movement in the current country of execution and in all those other EU states where the arrest warrant operates".

In the case of the three MEPs, as long as they maintain their immunity they have a safe-conduct to travel to any EU country except Spain. When they lose it, they will have to submit to the decisions of the courts of the states where they have their residence, with the possibility that they will be forced - as they were in the past - not to leave the country.