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Finland/ Supreme Court/ KKO:2019:26, Decision no. 443; H2019/8

Opinion of the Supreme Court regarding a request for extradition

Deciding Body type:
National Court/Tribunal
Deciding Body:
Supreme Court
Decision date:
19/03/2019

Key facts of the case:

A, who was a citizen of Lithuania, had been sentenced in Turkey in 2013 to 10 years imprisonment. He escaped from prison in 2016. Turkey had submitted a request to Finland for A’s extradition for the enforcement of his remaining sentence. According to the Extradition Act, extradition is decided in the Ministry of Justice. In this case, A opposed the request for extradition on the grounds that, due to the conditions in Turkish prisons, he would be in danger of being subjected to inhuman treatment. Therefore, and following section 16 of the Extradition Act (456/1970), the Ministry of Justice requested the opinion of the Supreme Court on whether extradition may be granted in this case.

The Supreme Court considered, firstly, whether EU citizenship is a barrier to extradition and secondly, whether there was a risk of inhuman or degrading treatment. In addition to the Extradition Act, the court applied Articles 18 and 21 of the TFEU, Article 19 of the Charter, Article 3 of the ECHR and section 9-4 (non-refoulement) of the Constitution Act. 

Key legal question:

The Supreme Court considered whether EU citizenship is a barrier to extradition and whether there was a risk of inhuman or degrading treatment in Turkey.

Outcome of the case:

The Supreme Court referred to its earlier decision in a similar case (KKO 2019:12), in which the court had requested a preliminary ruling from the CJEU (C-247/17, 13.11.2018), in light of Articles 18 and 21 of the TFEU. The Supreme Court had then found that an EU citizen who had exercised his freedom of movement and whose extradition had been requested outside the EU, must be treated in the same way as Finnish nationals if he is deemed to reside permanently in Finland. In such a case, section 2 of the Extradition Act prohibiting the extradition of Finnish citizens applies. In the current case, the court found that because A was only visiting Finland for work reasons, his status as an EU citizen was not a barrier to extradition.

 

In the preliminary ruling the CJEU had also noted that a Member State must verify that the extradition of an EU citizen to a non-EU country for the enforcement of a sentence will not infringe the rights guaranteed in Article 19 of the Charter. The judgment of the CJEU in the case of Petruhhin (C-182/15) specifies the requirements for such a review, The Supreme Court also noted that the findings of the European Committee against Torture (CPT/Inf (2015) 6) confirmed that the conditions especially in older Turkish prisons can be inhumane. At the court’s request, the Ministry of Justice had asked the Turkish authorities for additional information concerning the length of the remaining period of A’s prison sentence and the conditions in the prison in which A was to serve his sentence, but there had been no response.

The Supreme Court concluded that A’s humane treatment could not be guaranteed by the fact that Turkey was a state party to the ECHR or by assurances given by the Turkish authorities in the request for extradition that they would abide by the provisions of the ECHR. The report of the European Committee against Torture showed that there is a real risk that A is placed in a prison where the conditions amount to ill-treatment. The Turkish authorities had not submitted any additional information to prove otherwise. Under the circumstances, the request for A’s extradition cannot be granted because the extradition would be contrary to Article 19 of the Charter, Article 3 of the ECHR and section 9-4 of the Constitution Act.