Key facts of the case:
Reference for a preliminary ruling — Urgent preliminary ruling procedure — Police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters — Framework Decision 2002/584/JHA — European arrest warrant — Surrender procedures between Member States — Optional grounds for non-execution — Sentence handed down in absentia — ‘Summons in person’ — ‘Official notification by other means’ — EU law — Autonomous concepts
Results (sanctions) and key consequences of the case:
- In the light of the foregoing considerations, I propose that the Court of Justice should answer the questions submitted by the Rechtbank Amsterdam (District Court, Amsterdam) as follows:
(1) Article 4a(1)(a)(i) of Council Framework Decision 2002/584/JHA of 13 June 2002 on the European arrest warrant and the surrender procedures between Member States, as amended by Council Framework Decision 2009/299/JHA of 26 February 2009, must be interpreted as meaning that it contains autonomous minimum guarantees compliance with which must be verified independently by the executing judicial authority with a view to executing a European arrest warrant issued for the purpose of executing a decision handed down where the person concerned did not appear in person at his trial.
(2) Article 4a(1)(a)(i) of Framework Decision 2002/584, as amended by Framework Decision 2009/299, must be interpreted as meaning that the person concerned must have been summoned, according to the national procedural rules applicable, directly in person or, if not, that it must be unequivocally established from the information provided by the issuing authority that he was aware of the scheduled trial as a result of having actually received official information of the scheduled date and place of the trial.
- Consequently, the principle of mutual recognition cannot in itself serve as a guide for the interpretation of Article 4a(1)(a) of the Framework Decision, since that provision is an exception to the possibility of applying a ground for non-execution the existence of which is expressly linked to respect for fundamental rights. Also, the specific features of that particular provision must determine its interpretation.
- In the first place, it is common ground that the provision in question describes in detail certain factual conditions that must be satisfied.
- In the second place, it cannot be overlooked that that provision belongs to the specific field of criminal law, which means that enhanced guarantees are therefore required. (20)
- In the third place, that provision is intimately linked with the fundamental rights consisting in the rights of the defence and the right to an effective judicial remedy, set out in Articles 47 and 48 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (‘the Charter’).
- In that regard, as the Commission claims, Article 4a(1)(a)(i) must be interpreted before all else by reference to the objective of respect for the rights of the accused, while improving the mutual recognition of judicial decisions. (21) The aim of protecting the rights of the accused is also clear from recitals 1 and 8 of Framework Decision 2009/299, which express the intention to establish a system consistent with the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights.
- In any event, the requirements contained in Article 4a(1)(a)(i) of the Framework Decision ensure respect for the rights set forth in Articles 47 and 48 of the Charter. Although, in accordance with the explanations relating to the Charter, those provisions have the same meaning and the same scope as Article 6 of the ECHR, that does not prevent EU law from affording wider protection under Article 52(3) of the Charter.