Key facts of the case:
Reference for a preliminary ruling — Police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters — Framework Decision 2002/584/JHA — European arrest warrant — Grounds for refusal to execute — Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union — Article 4 — Prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment — Conditions of detention in the issuing Member State
Results (sanctions) and key consequences of the case:
On those grounds, the Court (Grand Chamber) hereby rules:
Article 1(3), Article 5 and Article 6(1) 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, where there is objective, reliable, specific and properly updated evidence with respect to detention conditions in the issuing Member State that demonstrates that there are deficiencies, which may be systemic or generalised, or which may affect certain groups of people, or which may affect certain places of detention, the executing judicial authority must determine, specifically and precisely, whether there are substantial grounds to believe that the individual concerned by a European arrest warrant, issued for the purposes of conducting a criminal prosecution or executing a custodial sentence, will be exposed, because of the conditions for his detention in the issuing Member State, to a real risk of inhuman or degrading treatment, within the meaning of Article 4 of the Charter, in the event of his surrender to that Member State. To that end, the executing judicial authority must request that supplementary information be provided by the issuing judicial authority, which, after seeking, if necessary, the assistance of the central authority or one of the central authorities of the issuing Member State, under Article 7 of the Framework Decision, must send that information within the time limit specified in the request. The executing judicial authority must postpone its decision on the surrender of the individual concerned until it obtains the supplementary information that allows it to discount the existence of such a risk. If the existence of that risk cannot be discounted within a reasonable time, the executing judicial authority must decide whether the surrender procedure should be brought to an end.
- In that regard, it must be stated that compliance with Article 4 of the Charter, concerning the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, is binding, as is stated in Article 51(1) of the Charter, on the Member States and, consequently, on their courts, where they are implementing EU law, which is the case when the issuing judicial authority and the executing judicial authority are applying the provisions of national law adopted to transpose the Framework Decision (see, by analogy, judgments in Dereci and Others, C‑256/11, EU:C:2011:734, paragraph 72, and Peftiev and Others, C‑314/13, EU:C:2014:1645, paragraph 24).
- As regards the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, laid down in Article 4 of the Charter, that prohibition is absolute in that it is closely linked to respect for human dignity, the subject of Article 1 of the Charter (see, to that effect, judgment in Schmidberger, C‑112/00, EU:C:2003:333, paragraph 80).
- That the right guaranteed by Article 4 of the Charter is absolute is confirmed by Article 3 ECHR, to which Article 4 of the Charter corresponds. As is stated in Article 15(2) ECHR, no derogation is possible from Article 3 ECHR.
- Articles 1 and 4 of the Charter and Article 3 ECHR enshrine one of the fundamental values of the Union and its Member States. That is why, in any circumstances, including those of the fight against terrorism and organised crime, the ECHR prohibits in absolute terms torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, irrespective of the conduct of the person concerned (see judgment of the ECtHR in Bouyid v. Belgium, No 23380/09 of 28 September 2015, § 81 and the case-law cited).
- It follows that, where the judicial authority of the executing Member State is in possession of evidence of a real risk of inhuman or degrading treatment of individuals detained in the issuing Member State, having regard to the standard of protection of fundamental rights guaranteed by EU law and, in particular, by Article 4 of the Charter (see, to that effect, judgment in Melloni, C‑399/11, EU:C:2013:107, paragraphs 59 and 63, and Opinion 2/13, EU:C:2014:2454, paragraph 192), that judicial authority is bound to assess the existence of that risk when it is called upon to decide on the surrender to the authorities of the issuing Member State of the individual sought by a European arrest warrant. The consequence of the execution of such a warrant must not be that that individual suffers inhuman or degrading treatment.
- To that end, the executing judicial authority must, initially, rely on information that is objective, reliable, specific and properly updated on the detention conditions prevailing in the issuing Member State and that demonstrates that there are deficiencies, which may be systemic or generalised, or which may affect certain groups of people, or which may affect certain places of detention. That information may be obtained from, inter alia, judgments of international courts, such as judgments of the ECtHR, judgments of courts of the issuing Member State, and also decisions, reports and other documents produced by bodies of the Council of Europe or under the aegis of the UN.
- Consequently, in order to ensure respect for Article 4 of the Charter in the individual circumstances of the person who is the subject of the European arrest warrant, the executing judicial authority, when faced with evidence of the existence of such deficiencies that is objective, reliable, specific and properly updated, is bound to determine whether, in the particular circumstances of the case, there are substantial grounds to believe that, following the surrender of that person to the issuing Member State, he will run a real risk of being subject in that Member State to inhuman or degrading treatment, within the meaning of Article 4.
- Further, in accordance with Article 6 of the Charter, the executing judicial authority may decide to hold the person concerned in custody only in so far as the procedure for the execution of the European arrest warrant has been carried out in a sufficiently diligent manner and in so far as, consequently, the duration of the detention is not excessive (see, to that effect, judgment in Lanigan, C‑237/15 PPU, EU:C:2015:474, paragraphs 58 to 60). The executing judicial authority must give due regard, with respect to individuals who are the subject of a European arrest warrant for the purposes of prosecution, to the principle of the presumption of innocence guaranteed by Article 48 of the Charter.